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All Together Now: The Israeli Army Committed No War Crimes

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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IDF armored personnel carriers in South Hebron Hills in the West Bank, earlier this month.
IDF armored personnel carriers in South Hebron Hills in the West Bank, earlier this month.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Remove the hatred or idolization of Benjamin Netanyahu and the upcoming election has no importance. You want to know why? Because barring the hatred and idolization of the prime minister, all Jewish parties are saying the same thing – they all affirm Zionism, Jewish supremacy and the continuation of the occupation. Thus, this election is devoid of any real choices, an election offering no alternatives, an election that is not a real election.

Note, for example, the reaction of the heads of all the Zionist parties to the decision made in The Hague to investigate Israel, a decision which on a really good day could generate a sea change in Israel’s conduct. From Benjamin Netanyahu to Merav Michaeli and all the others, everyone parroted the same phrases: they all trust the IDF and rely on its investigations. In other words, they all agree that there have been no war crimes. A children’s choir, the choir of the sanctimonious. Only Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz said something different, not sufficiently different, but the election does not revolve around Meretz.

West Bank, Gaza Palestinians won't be voting in Israel's election - would they if they could?

This blind rallying behind the IDF and the state on an issue as significant as the occupation brings on despair. After all, the majority of politicians in the center-left, from Michaeli to Yair Lapid, know the truth. They know everything about the IDF and almost everything about its crimes and the way it “investigates” itself, but they lack the courage to tell the truth. They lie to themselves, in their silence and in the backing they give the army.

The right, in contrast, believes that Israel and the IDF are permitted to do as they please, with no one anywhere in the world permitted to question this, with only antisemitism driving any criticism of the state. Between the right, which believes Israel is permitted anything, and the left, which doesn’t dare tell the truth, the choice is difficult. There is no difference and the result is the same: support for everything caused by the occupation and unwillingness to take any responsibility.

For two generations there has been an occupying army in an occupied land, without a day going by that its soldiers don’t violate international law, with an entire country cheering it on. A settlement enterprise exists, 53 years old, with 700,000 settlers, established under left-wing governments and fortified under right-wing ones. Most of the world says that this is a clear-cut violation of international law, and the Israeli choir pounces furiously on anyone wishing to investigate and punish those responsible for the crime of the settlements.

Take, for example, Saturday, a beautiful weekend day. A Palestinian family, parents and eight children, go out to their own plot of land for a picnic, where they are attacked and stoned by masked settlers coming from the settlement of Mitzpeh Yair, in the southern Hebron hills. Terrified cries can be heard on a video taken by B’Tselem, where the father can be seen taken to a hospital with his face bleeding.

A crime or not a crime? It is not for the first time that the attack came from this violent settlement. And not for the last time either, obviously. There is no army, no police, and no justice. But there is a response from the occupation authorities: “Israel is aware of the incident.” No one was arrested and no one will be, just like no one was arrested after an assault on Khalil Haryani, a 78-year-old shepherd who was attacked with chains, clubs and stones two months ago by settlers from the same Mitzpeh Yair.

“Israel is aware of the incident.” The awareness does not lead to any action. Awareness and encouragement. That’s how Israel investigates itself. The leaders of the left and center know this full well. They know that only an international body could put an end to this, but they lack the integrity and courage to say so.

This is precisely where the court in The Hague must enter the picture. This is precisely where the left should have invited the court to do so, and that is precisely the place where Israeli politics sings in a strident, despair-inducing choir, almost from wall to wall.

The identity of this choir’s next conductor is of much less importance than one might think. The style might be different, as well as the arrangement, but the song will remain the same song and the choir the same choir.

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