A soldier was killed on duty. The bespectacled boy, the musical career, the mandocello, the parents who immigrated from the Soviet Union, the friend from the music conservatory who played in his memory.
A soldier was killed on duty. He was guarding settlers at a junction. A Palestinian his age stabbed him to death and grabbed his weapon. He was a soldier in the “Fire Brigade,” artillerymen who have been turned into junction security guards in the settlements.
A soldier fell while defending occupied territory that no country in the world recognizes as ours. A soldier fell defending settlers who are convinced they are lords of the land and that they live in the country’s heartland, Ariel, “the pupik [belly button] of the state,” as the city’s late mayor, Ron Nachman, called it. A soldier was killed on duty, and the papers wrote, “He fell guarding the country.”
Staff Sgt. Gal Keidan, who was killed this week at the Ariel junction, fell guarding injustice. That’s why his death was in vain. It wasn’t just a matter of “Adorable boy – you didn’t deserve this,” from the headline in Yedioth Ahronoth, as if had he not been adorable, he would have deserved to die at 19. His killer, Omar Abu Lila, also had a childish face, perhaps he had also been adorable, and he didn’t deserve to die at 19, either.
But Keidan shouldn’t have died, because Keidan shouldn’t have been in Ariel. The Israel Defense Forces shouldn’t have been there, the settlers shouldn’t have been there, nor the university, the hotel, the industrial zone, the highway, or the private shooting range – none of them should have been there. All this false pretense that Ariel is Israel, that it’s legitimate, that its residents are legitimate, that it’s part of the consensus, that it’s in the settlement blocs, that it will never be evacuated, is all to confer normality on it. But the madness is gathering under the mask. Only a violent, courageous and determined Palestinian can still remind us that it exists.
Nothing was normal about the square where the soldier fell. An artilleryman is not supposed to be guarding a bus stop. There isn’t one other place in the world where soldiers with drawn rifles guard hitchhikers at a hitchhiking post. A young man of 19 shouldn’t have to risk his life so that settlers can remain in a land that isn’t theirs. That shouldn’t be the job of a young man who enlists in the IDF and thinks he’s going to be an artilleryman. If Israel wants settlements, let it find itself men who will risk their lives for the settlers out of their own free will. Let the IDF not lie to its soldiers or brainwash them and tell them that the soldier who fell in Ariel was defending his country. He wasn’t. He was endangering it.
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There is nothing normal about a junction whose concrete blocks are smeared wildly with “The people of Israel live,” in an area where most of the residents are Palestinians and none of them want the people of Israel living on their lands. Nothing is normal about a junction with so many rifles, the most heavily-armed junction in the world. Nothing is normal about a city that can be entered only by Jews, along with their servants who get a permit to enter on foot. Nothing is normal about a Jews-only bus stop. Nothing is normal about an industrial zone whose bosses are all Jews and whose workers are almost all Palestinians. Nothing is normal about a hotel and a mall overlooking all this craziness.
Staff Sgt. Keidan was ordered to guard all this. He was ordered to secure the delusions of normality and the insanities of colonialism. He was ordered to secure a reality that will never be secure, even if six “fire brigades” are stationed there. It’s hard to guess what he was thinking as he stood there, day and night, in the cold and the heat, armed and protected. Perhaps he was tortured by doubts, perhaps not. The brainwashing is enough to convince almost any young Israeli that guarding a hitchhiking post in Ariel is the ultimate in patriotism and heroism, while battling the occupier at that same hitchhiking post is murder and terror. That the soldier securing the occupation is a hero, and his killer, the opponent of the occupation, is a terrorist. That the soldier is moral, while his opponent is murderous.
A soldier was killed on duty. He died in vain. He didn’t have to die. He didn’t have to be there.