Opinion

Israeli Pilots Mustn't Cooperate With a Plan for Enforced 'Resettlement' of Asylum Seekers

I thought I had chosen to live in a country in which a civilian pilot, and even a military pilot, who received an order to fly human beings to their death, would refuse

Human rights group Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Dec. 28, 2017.
Natacha Pisarenko/AP

For the sake of proper disclosure: This writer was born in Argentina, and immigrated to Israel for Zionistic reasons in 1976, weeks before the military coup in which about 30,000 citizens were murdered or “disappeared,” among them about 2,000 Jews. There were many forms of murder: executions that were reported as “an exchange of shots with terrorists;” cruel torture that ended in death; about 500 pregnant women murdered immediately after giving birth in prison, the infants given to people close to the regime, and more – all products of the distorted imagination of the dictatorship in Argentina, the land of my birth.

And if we’re talking about a fertile and distorted imagination, there was another unique method, unprecedented anywhere in the world: Groups of the imprisoned were “transferred” from the prisons after being questioned, in order to make room and conceal evidence: They were loaded onto planes and thrown from them naked and heavily sedated, into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, with a weight attached to the handcuffs that bound them from behind.

Those groups of 13 to 20 people who were thrown out of the planes had no chance of surviving. But due to “mishaps” in planning and unforeseen currents, several of those bodies reached the shores of neighboring Uruguay. And although the small neighbor to the east was also under a dictatorship and cooperated with Argentina, years later photos of the bodies became evidence in trials of the leaders of the junta.

In his book, “The Flight: Confessions of an Argentine Dirty Warrior,” investigative journalist Horacio Verbitsky, who for most of the eight years of the dictatorship lived clandestinely, hiding from his pursuers, brought the testimony of the first “breaker of the code of silence” among members of the Argentinian armed forces. In a personal confession, he spoke about the methods of torture and the murder, and about the “death flights” in which he actively participated, and which 20 years later gave him no rest and forced him to betray his silent friends.

And I said to myself that in Israel that couldn’t happen. Not that, nor anything similar, and not even anything close. I thought I had chosen to live in a country in which a civilian pilot, and even a military pilot, who received an order to fly human beings to their death, would refuse. Of course he would refuse, after all, he knows the difference between right and wrong, he knows that the ocean definitely kills, but removing someone by force from the plane in a “third” country can also be a death sentence. And an Israeli pilot certainly wouldn’t agree to participate in such a massacre, which contradicts international law, the Jewish commandment, “You shall not stand by [the shedding of] your fellow’s blood,” and the personal morality that is expected from each and every one of the pilots.

I thought about all that when a few days ago I received the call on my cell phone to sign a manifesto demanding of Israel’s pilots that they refrain from leading the African asylum seekers to their possible death – those whom our government has decided to expel from Israel to a “third country.” Maybe in order to make room and conceal evidence.

I signed the manifesto, but I also thought that maybe there really is no need for it, since if we take into account all the differences between the situations, and between the pilots of the land of my birth and those of my homeland, we can still hope that no Israeli pilot will be found who would cooperate with a plan for enforced “resettlement,” the product of such a fertile and distorted imagination.

The writer is a journalist.