Israel's New National Darling Will One Day Stand Trial

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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From left: Defense Minster Moshe Ya'alon, incoming Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, incoming Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan and outgoing Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.Credit: IDF Spokesperson
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

And we already have a new national darling: Benny Gantz. He’s charming, modest, honest, fair, moderate, eloquent and even a hunk. Not arrogant like Ehud Barak, not a trouble-maker like Gabi Ashkenazi, not cruel like Shaul Mofaz, not thickheaded like Dan Halutz and not square like Moshe Ya’alon. A real sweetie, in a red beret and two pigtails.

During the national orgy of the transfer of power between the two chiefs of staff, which still includes – believe it or not – distributing a picture of the new chief of staff to every home in Israel under the auspices of a newspaper and insurance company to be hung in every garage, everyone competed in heaping praise on the outgoing army commander.

Embarrassingly flattering articles, sickly sweet commentaries, no less grotesque, such as only the guild of military correspondents – the regular flock of cheerleaders for the Israel Defense Forces, who for some reason are impersonating journalists – knew how to put out. Of course, no one stood out from the chorus line, the chorus of the red army. They melted: How wonderful it was under Gantz – in the bureau, army and battlefield. Only the right grumbled a bit: Gantz was too gentle in Gaza.

True, Gantz was a very good man (see how he gave 200 shekels ($50) to a beggar on his last day in the job), who did very bad things – look at what the IDF did under him, what violence and brutality his army demonstrated during his tenure. One day maybe he too will become a “gatekeeper” who will confess his actions and regret them; he has already hinted at the need to reach an agreement with the Palestinians – how moving.

One day he too will need to be judged for his actions, in Jerusalem or in The Hague. Like the polite rapist, this courteous and charming general is responsible for grave acts – the IDF’s war crimes in Gaza and the West Bank.

Operation Protective Edge is his, hundreds of innocent dead are notched into his rifle butt. “Black Friday” in Rafah is also Gantz’s black day; all the lies of the most moral army, including the “advance notices,” “warning shots” and “lack of intention” to harm civilians; the bombing of homes with their residents inside, the bombing of UNRWA schools and shelters, and the explicit intention of attacking the homes of Hamas activists, no matter who is there – the general of Protective Edge is responsible, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz.

Israel will yet be embarrassed some day for this sinful war too, which did not bring about any achievement, and for which it paid a heavy price, even if now its memory had faded and it has been forgotten. In Gaza and the world they will not forget.

The good and honest man Gantz is also responsible for the behavior of his army in the West Bank. “Operation Brother’s Keeper” is Gantz, and the systematic shooting at demonstrators and rock throwers is Gantz, and the arrests of children is Gantz and the demolition of houses is Gantz. They are not just the gung ho soldiers who fired, they are not just the commanders who commanded and covered up – it is first and foremost Gantz, the supreme commander.

The army that killed Yusef Shawamreh, a 14-year-old boy who went to pick gundelia plants; or Samir Awad, a 16-year-old youth who was shot in the back while fleeing, is Gantz’s army, the chief of staff who never came out against these killings.

Gantz is the pretty face of the IDF, the type the Israelis love the most: The type you can wear and still feel naked. With people like him, it is very easy to believe in the farce of the “most moral army in the world.” With such a pretty face it is possible to sleep well at night, without guilt feelings and with a pleasant feeling in your heart.

This week Gantz’s replacement entered the position of IDF chief of staff to the sound of trumpets. Gadi Eisenkot, too, is painted as a good man, modest, honest and calm. He is the one who patented the horrifying “Dahiya doctrine” [targeting civilian infrastructure as a means of deterrence].

Gideon Levy tweets at @levy_haaretz.

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