Opinion |

This Week's Palestinian Sacrifice, Delivered by an Israeli Bulldozer

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
An Israeli earth mover along the Israel-Gaza border east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, February 23, 2020.
An Israeli earth mover along the Israel-Gaza border east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, February 23, 2020. Credit: AFP
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

What did people on the right wing feel upon seeing the images of an Israeli army bulldozer burrowing into the ground in Gaza and snatching the body of a man as if it were an animal carcass being removed due to the stench? What were the feelings of the Goldin family, whose soldier son’s body is being held in Gaza, and who are considerably responsible for this spectacle, in the face of this desecration of dead? Did they feel satisfaction? A sense of revenge? Did they think that the return of their son’s body was brought closer even a bit in light of this scene?

And what were the thoughts of Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, who laid out this policy to snatch bodies? Was he proud of the Israeli soldiers who carried out his order? Would he be pleased to have the new doctrine named after himself, a doctrine involving the trafficking in bodies, his sole legacy?

Bernie, Bibi and the brutal occupation: Listen to Gideon LevyCredit: Haaretz Weekly Ep. 64

And what do the army chief of staff, the commander of the Southern Command and the unit commander think? Were they also enthusiastic over these scenes? Is that their victory photo? Their combat legacy?

And what about the bulldozer operator? What will he say when he returns to his family? That he abducted a body? That it was his job? What will he tell his children some day? That this is what Dad did in the army? That he dug up and abducted human bodies?

Did anyone even remember that they were human bodies? A member of Islamic Jihad but a person. A person who a short time earlier was alive and fighting – yes, fighting, against the cruel siege of his home – a person with dreams, plans and honor. And a name: Mohammed Ali al-Naim, age 27, and with a wife, Hiba, and a newborn baby. And with a mother, Mirwat, who is now mourning the death of her son.

The bulldozer trampled everything. The Israeli army says Al-Naim had laid an explosive charge near the border fence which imprisons his land, an act that has nothing to do with terrorism, and in the process, of course, marked himself for death. But that wasn’t enough. Now there is also a craving for bodies. The defense minister even boasted about it: “That’s how it needs to be, and that’s what was done.”

In 1956, not far from the site of the bulldozer of 2020, Moshe Dayan delivered a eulogy at the grave of Ro’i Rotberg at Nahal Oz, in which he said: “Let us not cast blame on the murderers today. Why should we declare their fierce hatred for us? They’ve been sitting in refugee camps for eight years in Gaza, and in front of their eyes, we are turning the land and the villages where they lived, they and their ancestors, into our inheritance.”

Fast forward to the speech by military abduction leader Bennett: “We’re sick of the hypocritical criticism from the left against the ‘lack of humanity’ in using a bulldozer to obtain the body of a terrorist.” Here in short we have the history of the bestialization, the insensitivity, the evil, the corruption and the rot of the occupation.

It’s easy to imagine what the Palestinians were feeling, particularly in Gaza, over the sight of Al-Naim’s dangling body: Try imagining the body of an Israeli soldier hanging out of a bulldozer in full view. Listen to the screams of the young people who gathered round and risked their lives in the face of the Israeli army weapons fire and a threatening tank in a desperate effort to save the body of their friend and the honor of the Palestinian people.

The desecration of the dead also led to two more days of exchange of fire and horror in the south: Masses of people in shelters on the Israeli side, hundreds of thousands of Gaza residents whose land was again shaken by explosions, and all of this to satisfy a nationalist defense minister who is trying to placate his blood-thirsty political base as well as the Goldin family, who belongs to that base.

Henry Kissinger once said that Israel doesn’t have a foreign policy, only a domestic policy. Now Bennett comes along and proves that defense policy is also sometimes only domestic policy.

Woe be it unto the political base that is satisfied by the abduction of bodies. And woe be the bereaved family that pushes without restraint for the abuse of Gaza, as long as the body of their loved one is returned.

The residents of Israeli communities near the Gaza border and the residents of Gaza have offered up another victim this week to the whim of a contemptible politician. The Israelis are apparently ready to pay any price: The fact is that almost no one protested. And no one made the basic and very well-founded demand to return Al-Naim’s body immediately, saying that we don’t want to be associated with a country that abducts and traffics in bodies.

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