'Should Sinwar Be Eliminated?': From Left to Right, the Israeli Chorus Calls for Blood

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar in 2018.
Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar in 2018.Credit: AP Photo/Khalil Hamra
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

This is what inflammatory discourse looks like: Media outlets and social media are inundated with calls to murder the leader of a political movement – even if it is a religious, extremist and violent one – with a bloodthirsty quest for vengeance. This is what a uniform raucous chorus looks like too: from left-wing Meretz (Uri Zaki) to the Kahanists, from journalists Amnon Abramovich (TV Channel 12) to Ben Caspit (Maariv), every single one of them is calling for the elimination of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar. One state, one voice.

They are competing for the appropriate epithet worthy of him, scoundrel or scum. Oh, such patriots! If only it were possible, stoning him in the city square would attract multitudes to the festivities. The nation will make do with at least bringing about his death by any other means. This is the only response the state of Israel, led by the inflammatory media, can offer in the wake of terror attacks.

The latest one was particularly gruesome: It was carried out with axes. But is murder by axe really crueller than any other kind? The axe is emblematic of the weakness of someone who might dream of killing by plane in the middle of the night. But he didn’t have a plane, not even a cannon.

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Obviously, murder with an axe is barbaric, but how is it different than the killing of a 19-year-old girl innocently traveling in a taxi before being shot dead by a soldier? In what, in the intent? Didn’t the soldier have an intent to kill while firing live ammunition at a taxi full of women in Jenin? What other intention did he have?

Such questions arise after every terror attack, just like Israel’s knee-jerk response, which repeats itself in a manner that can only lead one to despair. Not forgetting a thing and not learning a thing – how many times will assassination be proposed as a solution, even though all previous times it was to no avail, in most cases causing even more damage.

Even if one sets aside the question of the legality or morality of a state executing people without trial, there is the question of its effectiveness, which has never been proven.

One can also somehow ignore the repulsive and pathetic image of the media, which almost unanimously embarked on a campaign, demanding more assassinations, more invasions, more conquests.

One cannot forget that in Israel, assassinations are also a political matter. It’s not just the targets that are political – people who in law-abiding states are not legitimate targets – the actual killings are political. They are meant to placate political needs and objectives, showing the public that “something is being done.” An instant solution.

It’s doubtful whether there is an area in which Israeli media are so unified and influential, expressing the lust of the masses, pushing for carrying out violent revenge attacks. “Should Sinwar be eliminated?” asked a caption on newsfeeds earlier this week, as if this were a reality show. Murder by demand. The large number of such killings has masked the illegitimate atmosphere in which the conversation about the response to these attacks is being conducted.

Sinwar is not the worst of enemies. His successor will be worse. Sinwar will also not be the first Yahya of Hamas that Israel eliminates to no avail. The removal of Yahya Ayyash, his predecessor, didn’t give Israel anything but a wave of suicide bombings in which 60 Israelis were killed.

Reducing the problem posed by terror attacks to a single leader is a cowardly evasion of contending with the real issues. As if terror does not stem from the blockade, the occupation, the brutality of policemen at the al-Aqsa Mosque, the violence of settlers and the killing of innocents in the West Bank. As if terror were personified in Sinwar, only Sinwar. If terror is Sinwar, let’s kill him, and calm will be restored.

If terror is related to the Shalit prisoner exchange, in which Sinwar was set free after 23 years in prison, then it has an easy solution. No prisoner release, only assassinations, “deterrence,” and peace will be restored. Israel has tried this one thousand and one times with no success. It won’t work now either.

Obviously, we can’t remain silent in the face of terror. On the contrary, we should talk about it. With the living Sinwar. Talk to him, directly or indirectly, on removing the blockade. Talk to him about the rights his people have been deprived of, about their trampled dignity. We have never, but never, tried this in earnest.

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