Opinion

Israel's Reckless Policy Buried This Palestinian Family. Their Story Was Buried Too

A Palestinian boy walks through a hole in a wall of a destroyed house following overnight Israeli missile strikes, in the town of Khan Yunis, southern Gaza Strip, November 14, 2019.
Khalil Hamra,AP

It’s not hard to bury a story in Israel, especially if it’s about Palestinians. All you have to do is to ignore it. No one will demand answers, no one will insist. One more or one less Palestinian family, who’s counting? Just ignore it.

People calling themselves journalists will interview people calling themselves statesmen, who’ll insist on quoting surveys or dismiss some statement or other. The journalists will return home feeling good about themselves. They produced great TV, and who cares about the buried story about a dead family of nine in Gaza?

In a chilling series of stories, Yaniv Kubovich revealed in Haaretz how the air force’s “bank of targets” is put together. Kubovich exposed how a decade of living with a policy that sees blockade and cyclical rounds of armed clashes as a reasonable solution has created constant pressure to provide new targets; how the army rewards the identification of new targets and the stunning ease with which old targets are re-approved; how no one checks what’s happening at the target right before planes are dispatched to drop a bomb in the midst of a civilian area; how, in short, the surgical pilot so praised by our propagandists has been shown to be a surgeon with unsteady hands.

The Sawarka family in Gaza no longer exists. Nine family members, two of them babies, fell victim to this reckless policy. Somewhere there is a pilot and an intelligence officer who have to live with that. One can’t know how many more Gazans have paid with their lives for the offhandedness with which we’ve decided we’re permitted to drop bombs.

“We’ve erred, we made a mistake, what can we do?” is the perennial answer given for every additional resident of Gaza whose life was cut short. Someone more pedantic may add a verse from Proverbs: “He who admits ... shall have mercy.” But it wasn’t a mistake. It wasn’t negligence. It was indifference – we casually played with fire and people died.

But this is of no interest. Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, who passed four years as minister of education while fantasizing about wearing a general’s Uniqlo jacket and barking at Arabs, broke his silence with a video clip in which he promises Israel’s citizens to work for them each and every day. The previous defense minister, the prime minister, holds his silence. He’s more into having his picture taken with soldiers. Also silent is the triumvirate of former chiefs of staff calling itself the opposition. No one is demanding answers of them. Policy is for somewhere else, explain Israeli journalists.

Even in the opinion pages of Haaretz, most columns are preoccupied with analyzing the structure of Israel’s political parties, with who will split and who will merge, with who’s missing a historic opportunity and who’s a sourpuss. Never mind the other newspapers. There is no follow-up to the story of the Palestinian family.

If this were about the army lying about the number of ultra-Orthodox draftees, there’d be something to talk about. But this is only about human lives. Less than humans, they were Gazans. These matters are not worthy of discussion.

And thus, most Israeli citizens now live in an alternate reality. For them, air force jets are still the cutting edge and the IDF is the sharpest tool in the drawer. Politicians will continue to speak of the most moral army in the world and no one will ask them about the morality of blind bombing.

No one is held accountable for this policy, which is why it won’t change. More bombs will be dropped on targets that may be there, maybe not any longer. Other families will continue to live or perhaps die. Young intelligence officers may return home with dead babies on their minds, or maybe not. In the words of a song by playwright Hanoch Levin: Amid tears in the rooms there is silence in the garden, while the king plays with the queen.