The uniform is the same uniform. It’s the uniform whose wearers blew up hundreds of homes and schools and clinics in Gaza last summer. It’s the uniform whose wearers periodically shoot teenagers and children throwing stones and peaceful demonstrators in the West Bank. It’s the uniform that every night invades homes and brutally pulls people out of bed, often for needless and politically motivated arrests. It’s the uniform that blocks people’s freedom of movement in their own land. It’s the uniform that’s been abusing an entire people for decades.
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Now its wearers are saving lives for the cameras. The evil army in Palestine has become the salvation army in Nepal.
The Israeli rescuers in Nepal are certainly infused with good intentions. The reserve soldiers among them told of dropping everything to join the effort. They are definitely good people who enlisted to help Israelis and Nepalese. It’s very moving to see a preemie being carried to safety by an IDF soldier.
But we cannot forget that wearing that same uniform, the IDF kills babies by the dozens; a B’tselem report released last week listed 13 instances in which homes were blown up in Gaza, killing 31 babies and 39 children. He who did this to dozens of babies needs an intolerable measure of chutzpah to dare be photographed with a baby rescued from an earthquake and to boast of his humanitarianism.
Because after all, boasting is the name of the game. That’s a fact. Let’s show ourselves, and particularly the rest of the world, how wonderful we are, how the IDF is really the absolutely most moral army in the world.
“Have you seen any Iranian rescue planes?” asked a propagandist in disguise yesterday. “A model state,” “The beautiful Israel,” “The Israeli flag among the ruins,” “The pride.” “Our delegation of ministering angels represents the universal values of our people and our country,” the president said. “These are the true faces of Israel – a country prepared to assist at any distance at such moments,” the prime minister said.
Ministering angels? The country’s true face? Perhaps. But that angelic face also has a dark, satanic side, one that kills babies, not only saves them. When that’s the case, one cannot speak of “universal values.” One cannot speak of values at all. There is simply no right to do so. To see Avigdor Lieberman, the bully who preaches at every turn to bomb, shell and destroy, speak of humanitarianism?
There are countries that aren’t providing as much generous aid as Israel, but there isn’t a single country behaving with such hypocrisy – killing in Gaza, saving in Nepal, and presenting itself as Mother Teresa. There is no other country that so exploits every opportunity to propagandize and shower itself with syrupy, embarrassing self-adulation ad nauseam.
Babies die in the child warehouses at the Tel Aviv central bus station not from some force majeure, but because of a cruel immigration policy. The IDF isn’t saving those babies. There was an earthquake in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge; the rubble has not been cleared to this day, and most of those who lost their homes remain homeless. No one has visited Gaza recently without being shocked to their very core. And that earthquake was manmade; it was the work of the IDF, the same IDF that’s in Nepal.
Israel doesn’t have to go all the way to Kathmandu to save lives; it would be enough to lift the siege it imposes an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv and let Gaza be rebuilt. It would be enough to allow the 2 million people who live there a bit of freedom. It would enough to decide that during the next attack, which is inevitable, the IDF will act differently. That the same IDF now engaged in rescue will not commit more war crimes. That it will uphold international law, and perhaps even those “universal values” Israel is gloating about now. That the same IDF now hugging babies will not bomb homes with babies inside them.
But all this is of course much harder than sending a 747 to Kathmandu and setting up the largest possible, best-equipped field hospital in front of the accompanying army of reporters, and applauding the beautiful, virtuous, moral Israel.
Gideon Levy tweets at @levy_haaretz