Anat Kamm, the Forgotten Antigone

Kamm is an exceptional hero. She went so far, even farther than the few who refuse to serve and occasionally stand up to challenge the occupation, disappearing below the horizon of the obvious. She did not refuse to act. She acted and paid dearly.

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One remnant of my studies of literature in the educational system is “Antigone.” The heroine of the tragedy breaks the law of the state in favor of more important laws, in her eyes. Antigone has been viewed for ages, until now, in all accepted interpretations, as a heroic figure whose uncompromising actions leads her to the grave. After what the legal system has done to Anat Kamm, teachers can say something about the relatively light punishment she received. Maybe they will also explain that there are no longer any tragedies, not here, not by us.

Kamm’s heavy punishment reflects the state’s resolve to deter other soldiers. The contradiction between the principles that the state, allegedly, is entrusted with ‏(for example, the High Court of Justice decision on targeted killings‏) and the policy it implements ‏(for example, what Kamm exposed‏) − this contradiction establishes a community, still small and sociologically distinct, that loses the respect it had to the laws of the state in favor of “other laws,” and to a different ethic.

But the blind discipline, and the silence the state received for many years on the part of the masses of draftees and officers who knew and kept silent about its crimes, will not last forever. Kamm is an exceptional hero. She went so far, even farther than the few who refuse to serve and occasionally stand up to challenge the occupation, disappearing below the horizon of the obvious. She did not refuse to act. She acted and paid dearly.

If she had asked me, I would have suggested she not do it. That is what I would have told my son, because of the risk to one’s freedom. Kamm asked no one and the hypothetical “if she had asked” is out of place. She had no one to ask. I don’t mean her parents; she is an adult. But it is important to look at Kamm’s act, as a result of which she will spend her youth in prison, from the point of view of “there was no one to ask.”

The logic of the left as the opposition, in other words as the protagonists of a continuous, long-term action, is that no person is a lone partisan. A political act is meant to be the result of thought; and thought, like language, is something that is organized over a period of time. Even if someone who refuses to serve decides independently to go to jail, even then the support for him remains the support of a movement that is capable of providing support: A public committee to identify with, a party that will raise his matter in the Knesset. This logic is quickly drowned at the same speed with which the occupation is drowning in the self-evident. Something bigger is disintegrating in front of our eyes inside this great collective apathy.

The left has never had such a horrible parliamentary team. What remains is nothing but a group of individuals with the self-description “I am a leftist,” keeping some bit of faith in hazy ideals, but with a dwindling commitment to organized and continuous action.

It is enough to look at the farce of the petitions in the matter of Samer Issawi: They signed, justified and moved on − to understand the fall of the idea of an organization, umbrella group or coordinating committee. There is nothing like any of those. The left of “continually being called to the cause” is dead, and nothing new has been born in its place. Something bigger is disintegrating around us: the ability to act in the face of the delusion of the Internet. It is enough to watch the rising danger of a war in the north and the total impotence of any left-wing reaction.

Here is the tragedy that literature teachers will never teach: The cries of distress over the right-wing rule or the Shin Bet security service’s actions are not the entire story. Israel is being filled up not only by the ever-growing settlement enterprise, and by the ever-increasing transformation of the occupied territories into isolated cantons. Israel is also being filled up with pampered left-wingers, for whom the concept of continuous action is not at all clear to them, and the need to build a single force, central and influential, is not at all one of their goals. It is more pleasant to be part of a small organization, easier to come “whenever I feel like it,” more interesting to be “a left-winger on Facebook,” as if something could be changed in our reality without ongoing political action in the real world.

That is why Anat Kamm didn’t have whom to ask, and there is not even a Greek chorus, or parliamentary faction, that will say: Grant her amnesty.

Anat Kamm at a Tel Aviv court before hearing the verdict of her trial, Oct. 2011

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