Yuli Novak, the executive director of the Breaking the Silence, which is engaged in publicizing Israeli abuses in the territories, refused in a dignified way to answer a question posed to her by media personality Avri Gilad on a Channel 2 morning program. What is preferable in her opinion, he wanted to know, for one Israel Defense Force soldier to be killed or for 1,000 non-combatant Gazans to die? If Novak had answered that she would have preferred 100 Palestinians to be killed, she would have been seen as an unenlightened racist who made a distinction depending upon whose blood was being shed. And if she had said it was better for one IDF soldier to die, she would have been the ultimate traitor.
I will, however, attempt to answer the filthy question and indeed if the question was posed to mothers, both Israeli and Gaza Palestinian, each would want to spare her own sons’ lives. If it were otherwise, they would no longer be mothers. If the question was posed to people outside this emotional circle, they would say that it is a cruel question that pits one life against another. If they had no alternative, they would say that as many people as possible should be saved, without distinguishing between them; because if the life of one Israeli is more valuable than 100 of the enemy, why just 100? Why not 1,000?
I’ve always been suspicious of the statement that there are no improper questions, just improper answers. Questions also reflect the character of the questioner, and if Gilad’s game of preferences includes pitting the life of one Israeli soldier against 100 other lives, he has a problem. After all, a rational human being, when dealing with preferences, would ask you if you prefer majadra, the Middle Eastern-style lentil dish, or gefilte fish. Even if you would choose the first option, nothing bad would happen to our cherished gefilte fish.
Moreover, the world that Gilad inhabits is narrow and stifling. It’s us or them. Gilad is an authentic representative of a culture that has already been blossoming here for a generation that believes that the whole world is against us. The flip side of that is that we are against the world. Look, the entire world, including those who are clearly our friends, is in favor of ending the occupation and here this group of Israelis are fighting to continue it.
But why complain about Gilad when the IDF’s Hannibal Directive is exactly the same doctrine? Not only is it permissible to wipe out 100 Palestinians. It is also permissible to kill the one Israeli soldier in addition to the 100 Palestinians to prevent the soldier from being taken captive. During last summer’s war in Gaza, in Rafah, on a Friday that has come to be known as Black Friday, 150 Palestinians were killed pursuant to the directive when it was feared that Lt. Hadar Goldin had been captured.
But reality proved Gilad’s game of preferences wrong. Not only is one Israeli soldier worth 100 Gazans, even the body of the soldier is. The Second Lebanon War in 2006 broke out over the abduction of two Israeli soldiers, while it was almost certain that the two were no longer alive. The body of each Israeli cost the Lebanese the lives of 700 civilians and soldiers, and in Israel too, where apparently things got mixed up, for every dead soldier, 72 soldiers and civilians were killed. Sometimes the spell backfires on the magician.
I would like to draw Gilad’s attention to the activities of Israeli civil rights organizations, whose activists he accused of playing into the hands of anti-Semites. But when I was in Europe, I was amazed to hear Europeans express admiration for the Jews for their self-criticism. They were thrilled with the movie “The Gatekeepers,” over the fact that the heroes of the documentary, six former heads of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, were raising ethical questions, appealing to people of culture. But as a sworn enemy of the Jews, I castigated them, saying that the situation in Israel is catastrophic, while you nave Europeans are saying that actually these people of conscience are showing that all is not lost in the State of Israel.
I immediately called my anti-Semitic friends in Europe and assailed them with the request that they stop inviting Breaking the Silence to come and stop showing “The Gatekeepers,” and instead they needed to immediately invite Gilad, who would present his 100-to-1 blood price list. And if language commentator Avshalom Kor, with his theory of Arab cannibalism, also joins the trip, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will already have a Palestinian state in the bag.