Opinion |

Killing Islamic Jihad Leader Got Israel Nothing. So Why Do It?

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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A Palestinian boy looks on as he stands in front of the remains of a house destroyed in an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip November 13, 2019.
A Palestinian boy looks on as he stands in front of the remains of a house destroyed in an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip November 13, 2019. Credit: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Once again the sacrosanct unity has come. Once again we are one people, without opposition or public debate, a parade of yes men and cheerleaders in the media, bloodshed with no regrets, as always happens in these sickening, “quiet, we’re shooting,” situations.

Israel fakes a split among the people, which always magically comes together with every killing. We argue about life but agree on death, as long as the dead are Arabs. If we automatically agree this way about every military action, then there isn’t really any polarization or debate, and that’s really too bad.

Haaretz WeeklyCredit: Haaretz

A Jewish opposition has yet to be born that will condemn a violent action by the Israel Defense Forces when it begins. The resistance comes only when it begins to fail. Then people get up the courage to protest, but it’s always too late. At the start there may only emerge the marginal question of the timing, that refuge of cowards. We should have done it before, it should have been later, just not now; the current operation, for example, is ostensibly tainted by electoral considerations, as if that can be proved.

If the bloodshed is inevitable then the timing isn’t important. And if it’s criminal and harmful, no timing will change that. Just decide. Even the hatred of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been forgotten: Yair Lapid welcomes the attack, Benny Gantz praises it as “the right decision” and Amir Peretz says, “The most important thing is to provide complete backing to the IDF.” Why? Because. Always? Yes.

Lian (C) daughter of Palestinian Islamic Jihad senior leader Baha Abu Al-Ata mourns during her parents funeral in Gaza City on November 12, 2019.Credit: SAID KHATIB / AFP

One can accept the argument that Baha Abu al-Ata was responsible for the constant rocket fire on Israel, but one must know that the siege on the Gaza Strip is responsible for more rockets than all the Islamic Jihad and Hamas commanders put together, and of course no one talks about that. Abu al-Ata grew up in the Gaza Strip under conditions that no Israeli can fathom, and chose the path of military resistance, which is a brutal one. There are also Israelis who have chosen to serve their people in the army.

The assassination of Abu al-Ata serves no purpose. What did we gain from it? How has his assassination and that of others served Israel’s interests? If even this question is never debated, then we’re victims of serious brain paralysis. Is Israel’s situation more secure on the day after the assassination? Are the communities in the south in better shape? Is Islamic Jihad weaker? Has the IDF become stronger? The answers are no and no. None of the generals or analysts has succeeded in explaining what Israel has gained from all this.

He deserved the death penalty. Fine, we heard you, but what did we gain from it? Here’s an interim assessment: more hatred in Gaza, if there’s even any room for more hated toward those who destroyed the lives of five generations of people and haven’t stopped. Much blood has been shed and continues to be shed — 22 Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip as of Wednesday evening, destruction and fear sown on both sides that doesn’t accomplish anything. And of course there’s the firm knowledge that there will emerge an heir to Abu al-Ata who will be many times more extreme and dangerous, as were those who replaced the hundreds of leaders and commanders that Israel has killed over the years, all in vain.

Nothing came out of the acclaimed eliminations of Khalil al Wazir, Ahmed Yassin, Abdul Aziz Rantisi, Thabet Thabet, Ahmed Jabari or Abbas Musawi; the heroic assassinations of all these people were in vain. Israel gained nothing from any of them except more spilled blood.

Why does Israel continue its targeted killings? Because it can. Because these are heroic stories. Because it loves dead Palestinian fighters. Because the lust for revenge and punishment drive it crazy. Because that’s how you show the people you’re doing something and not holding back. Because that’s how you can execute people while saying Israel doesn’t have the death penalty. Because that’s the way to avoid the real solution. Because no one has the courage to talk about the real solution: lifting the blockade and talking directly to Hamas. Because everyone here applauds assassinations and never dares to question them. Ask them in Kahol Lavan and the Labor Party, ask almost any Israeli whether they object. We’re all in favor.

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