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Deep in the West Bank, You Can See New Israeli Antisemitism

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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Army chief Aviv Kochavi, center, and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, right.
Army chief Aviv Kochavi, center, and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, right.Credit: Arik Hermoni / Defense Ministry
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

The head of the Israel Defense Forces, Avi Kochavi, promised us a lethal army, and now its lethality has been directed at civilians – Jews included – from the group Combatants for Peace. Members of this organization simply tried to bring water to a Palestinian village in the South Hebron Hills where the army is refusing them water.

True, the soldiers’ conduct wasn’t the kind that would shame soldiers in one of the world’s darker countries, but still.

Under the leadership of Kochavi and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, the army not only represses Palestinians, it brutally suppresses the Jews who express solidarity with them. It’s the new antisemitism that has grown up in the shadow of that pair’s leadership: Jews aren’t allowed to act on their conscience, especially if that accursed conscience leads to acts of solidarity with suffering Palestinians.

The new antisemitism, which was created in a country that’s supposed to be fighting antisemitism in all its manifestations, has decided that the occupation is the twin of the new Jew. Is anything more ugly? If you’re a Jew, you must support the oppression of another people. But if you want to act humanely, you have to pay the price!

On your way to bringing a little water to suffering people, an army officer awaits you and, like an especially violent soccer player, shoves you into the rocks on the side of the road. A lethal IDF knee will press onto your neck as the consequence of showing solidarity with thirsty people. This homegrown antisemitism posits that there can be no good Jews, only oppressive ones.

Part of this stems from a dilemma that the army faces. A lethal army needs a place to act out its lethality. This is a problem known as “excess capability”: Those who have it live in a reality too small for their potential. It’s like hiring Stanley Fischer as the bookkeeper of a cinder-block factory with 10 employees.

What’s more, with the rise of the slogan “lethal army,” the countries surrounding Israel have ceased to be a threat. The Syrians are regularly attacked by Israel and react with nothing but the empty mantra of vowing to take revenge at the proper time and place. An ungrateful Iran no longer responds to Israeli talk of attacking its nuclear facilities. The days when Saddam Hussein threatened Israel with chemical weapons are long past.

Moshe Sharett wrote in his diary in October 1953: “The president [Yitzhak Ben-Zvi] raised, as usual, some pointless questions such as whether we will ever have a chance to invade the Sinai Peninsula, and wouldn’t it be good if the Egyptians launched an attack that we could repel and follow up by invading deep into that desert? He will be very disappointed when I tell him that the Egyptians aren’t showing any predilection for making an invasion easy by engaging in provocations.”

That’s the tragedy of Kochavi. He has no partner for his lethal army. There are no big leaguers in this region. The league where tanks battle it out with tanks and fighter jets with fighter jets just doesn’t exist. It’s lonely at the top. Israel is strong, no one wants to mess with it. So all that strength is directed at nothing. But in a decade or two, Kochavi will have to replace all those tanks, planes and submarines.

So it’s good that a big part of the budget goes to army salaries and pensions. They’re blackmailers raising their families’ standard of living.

But the main thing is that the money spent on defense shouldn’t go to waste. The problem is that if there’s no playing field for all this lethality, the lethality finds a place where it can act. In the last few months we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of Palestinians killed in the occupied territories.

Israeli parents should know that when their children arrive at the induction center, odds are that their sons and daughters will later star in videos of them violently shoving an old man and pressing a knee onto his neck, all for the glory of peace and the occupation.

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