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Our Hit Men

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Khalil al Wazir (Abu Jihad), right, with Yasser Arafat
Khalil al Wazir (Abu Jihad) with Yasser ArafatCredit: Associated Press
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Israel loves to revel in its bloody memories – how we killed, how we eliminated, how we murdered, what heroes we were. Every so often another so-called documentary, which is nothing but propaganda in favor of murder, extols Israeli heroism, always worshipfully, always with admiration for the heroic hit men, always with a sly, knowing wink, without asking questions, without casting doubt, without serious debate.

There aren’t many countries that send kill units to off their enemies in their sleep, in front of their wives and children, let alone boast about it, running to tell their friends, as the Hebrew joke goes, and even turning these murders into a positive value as the media cheers them on. Israel murders, and the media marvels.

Even if it were possible to somehow understand the motivation or even the justification for the murders and targeted killings — which were never particularly wise — making the murders into exemplary behavior is unthinkable. Perhaps it’s an unavoidable necessity — very doubtful — but a source of pride? Mass entertainment? Murder as amusement?

Instead of the assassins being ashamed of their actions and perhaps expressing regret one day, they are the heroes of our times.

Thus last week Kan public television broadcast a movie on the planned wholesale elimination of the entire Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip, which thankfully was not executed. (Operation Anemone Picking, the plan was called, and it was described as the “dream of every intelligence agent"). Now Channel 13 is broadcasting “Reshimat Hisul” (“Hit List,” another exemplary series, which surveys Israel’s murders and praises their executors to the high heavens.

This week’s episode dealt with the glorious assassination of Khalil al Wazir, known as Abu Jihad, whose heroic elimination in Tunisia in 1988 had already been the subject of segment on the investigative television magazine “Uvda.”Any Israeli documentary series worth its salt must have at least one targeted killing per season.

The formula is grotesque. They are written like popular thrillers, with appropriate background music and reenactments. But the message is bloodcurdling: There are murderers among us, some of them national leaders; not only are they considered heroes, but some are regarded as the most moral and ethical politicians. Take Moshe Ya’alon, for example, whose middle name is honesty. He has one ultimate test, he said in the film about Abu Jihad’s murder, “the test of looking in the mirror.” A real “Mr. Morality.”

If Ya’alon can look at himself in the mirror after a murder, it’s a sign that the murder wasn’t a murder. A new test in the theory of ethics is born.

Ya’alon the thinker also has a philosophy: “In my philosophy there is no mission impossible,” said one of the great hopes of Kahol Lavan, spouting yet another cliché. Everything is possible, including the idiotic elimination in Tunis of a man who could have become a partner for peace.

There are two common threads to all these heroic stories: The assassins almost always had more blood on their hands than the assassinated, including the blood of innocents, and the assassinated were always replaced by people more extreme and dangerous than they. There has never been an assassination that halted terror; there has never been a murder that caused an entire people to surrender. They will never tell you this in these glowing reports.

“One shot with a .22, and the guard was dead” — applause. “If he had shot the girl [Abu Jihad’s daughter] he would have taken it very hard” — how moral we are. And the naked truth: “In the end you’re pleased that you’ve killed someone.”

At a certain point they weighed whether to also assassinate the neighbor, Abu Mazen; “Two birds with one stone, but not every Abu is on the same scale,” said a voice of reason, and thus the life of Mahmoud Abbas, today the Palestinian president, was saved. Had he, the embarrassingly moderate leader, been taken out at the time, it would have also been considered an incredible success for Israeli intelligence, just like that murder of his neighbor on the Tunis beach.

Keep on telling us about more and more assassinations. It says quite a lot about us.

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