Opinion |

The Death of Guilt in Israel

The horror in Gaza can continue indefinitely thanks to an Israeli state of mind that has learned to wipe atrocities out of ones consciousness

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
Ibraheem Abu Thuraya gestures during a protest near the border with Israel in the east of Gaza City December 15, 2017.
Ibraheem Abu Thuraya gestures during a protest near the border with Israel in the east of Gaza City December 15, 2017.Credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Keshet TVs morning program. Its the usual mix of news, leisure and entertainment. A discussion about Gaza, with the usual panel – a retired army general and an expert in Middle Eastern affairs. Whenever they talk about Gaza they bring a reserve general and a Middle Eastern affairs expert, who is close to the defense establishment.

The message is always the same: strike, destroy and deter. Nothing about the siege that has been going on for almost 11 years. No siege. No context. The Palestinians were born to kill, and the Gazans to launch Qassam rockets. Apart from that, they have no interest in life. Moving on to the next topic.

They move on to talk about Ahed Tamimi. They make sure to preserve the holy balance: a leftist journalist next to a representative of the fascist Im Tirzu movement. And again, no context. Tamimi woke up one morning and went to slap soldiers. She doesnt have a 15-year-old cousin who was shot in the head – at short range – an hour earlier, no soldiers who invaded her home.

Dr. Uzi Rabi, Middle Eastern affairs expert, confirms that her family is a family of murderers, repeating the libel uttered by Im Tirzus representative.

Rabi knows. Hes a Middle Eastern affairs expert. The Tamimi family consists of 5,000 people. All murderers. Rabi knows them. He visits Nabi Salah a lot. He met Bassam and Nuriman, Naji and Bushra, the awe-inspiring struggle leaders, and he knows. Trust Rabi. This is what they say in the defense establishment, and Rabi gives it the academic stamp of approval.

One can assume hes never met the Tamimis or ever been to Nabi Salah. But hes playing his role obediently, otherwise they wont invite him to TV morning shows or to Institute for National Security Studies conferences.

I was in the leftists role. I commented that they didnt mention the siege. The retired general, Yom-Tov Samia, rose defiantly and left the studio. He wont sit with an Israel hater, he said. A few minutes earlier he had greeted me cordially. But now, with the cameras on and the Labor primaries perhaps on the threshold – he will be defense minister, so he declared – its better to walk out. Maybe it will be a news item.

He, of course, is an insignificant man, the general who conceived of the pressure cooker doctrine to destroy houses with the fugitives hiding inside them. But his behavior is emblematic. The self-declared candidate for the leadership of the left-center party wont sit with an Israel hater who dared to broach the siege in Gaza. The hater also mentioned that Tamimi had a right to resist the occupation that barbarically shot her cousin in the head.

As far as the Israeli media and public opinion are concerned, theres never any context, no cause and effect. Oh, how cozy and pleasant it is to be blind. This is what we have commentators for, to leave us in the comfortable darkness. For this well have them on morning shows, before the cooking programs.

But there was also something encouraging about Samias performance. He got up and left because hes involved, and thats why he isnt capable of hearing the truth about himself, a candidate for the International Court of Justice in The Hague. In his mind, he is a moral person (Ive done more for Gaza than you have, said the former head of Southern Command). Such a state of mind can only be maintained by omitting the Israeli atrocities from ones consciousness. This is the routine of the TV channels debates, and thats why Samia was so agitated when someone mentioned things that are forbidden to mention.

Samia is a wonderful example of the Israeli psychological mechanism, which enables the horror to continue indefinitely, thanks to a systematic, unconscious omission of guilt. Any attempt to dispute this drives him out of his mind. He came to the studio to talk about deterrence, and suddenly – the siege. He came to talk about the female terrorist, and suddenly, she has a cousin left with half a head. Whats going on here? Ive got to get out of here.

To Samias credit, his theatrical exit showed that something in him still lives, moves, rebels. He still feels guilty, thats why he protested so dramatically. With the indifferent majority, everything is already dead. Guilt died here long ago.

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