On IDF's Failure And Jewish Ethics
Alimuddin Usmani: Israeli intelligence apparently underestimated the extent of the tunnels built by Hamas. Emerging from the tunnels, Palestinian fighters made some daring attacks that killed a number of Israeli soldiers inside Israel. Does this represent a major failure of the Israeli army?
Gilad Atzmon: The failure of the Israeli military is far greater than just the tunnels. The tunnels are not, in themselves, resistance but are, instead, a means of resistance. The tunnels did not lead Israel into this war they were a secondary military objective. The Israeli cabinet and the IDF made the tunnels an issue as soon as they realized that they were not able to articulate any other attainable objectives. In a desperate move, they made a secondary objective into a primary one so that they could depict an image of victory.
I was probably the first to predict an Israel defeat in this round of violence. I could read the map, I could see that Israel could not present its military objectives. This means that Israel’s days are numbered. Living on someone else’s land demands a willingness to sacrifice. But the Israelis are not willing to pay the ultimate price anymore. Israel is a spoiled western hedonist society. Yet Israelis are engaged in a fierce battle with Gazans - people who have been living for decades in an open air prison, are fighting for their dignity and have nothing to lose.
Alimuddin Usmani: After each massacre whether it is in a school, on the beach or in a market, the Israeli government is quick to state that the army is "investigating the incident." Why is it so important for the Hasbara to use terminology such as "The IDF is the most moral army in the world?”
Gilad Atzmon: Very simple, because it isn’t. Judaism and Jewish culture are neither ethical nor universal. They are legalistic and tribal. The great Israeli philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz made this point in the 1970s. He argued that Judaic legalism serves as a replacement for ethical thinking. Instead of an authentic ethical judgment, the Jew is asked to follow orders. Judaism provides protocols for correct behaviour. Accordingly, the Ten Commandments are an affirmation of the paucity of Jewish ethical thinking; ethical people don’t need ‘commandments’ to know that murder or theft are wrong.
Similarly, the IDF is proud of its ‘moral code,’ a set of kosher ‘ethical guidelines’ written by a uniquely shallow Israeli philosopher named Asa Kasher. If Kasher had done his homework and bothered to read Kant’s 2nd critique and grasped the meaning of the categorical imperative he would have understood that an army of ethical soldiers doesn't need an ‘ethical code.’ A ‘moral army’ trusts its soldiers to act ethically and to be able to differentiate right from wrong.
Kant’s categorical imperative suggests the following: “act only according to that maxim whereby one can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.”
It teaches that the human subject possesses the capacity to make an ethical judgment that corresponds to higher universal principles. It also implies that ethical judgment is a dynamic notion not a set of regulations, codes or commandments. But this dynamic inclination toward the universal is lacking in both Judaism and contemporary Jewish secular culture. In Judaism it is replaced by legalism (Talmud and Halacha), and in modern Jewish culture it is replaced with a deceitful image of ‘ethical conduct.’ The IDF praises its own ‘ethical code’ while at the time its air force is committing colossal war crimes slaughtering innocent civilians. Similarly, the so-called Anti Zionist Jews advise us that they are motivated by ‘Jewish universal values’ in order to conceal the fact that there is no such thing. There are no Jewish universal values because when Jewishness becomes universal it stops being Jewish.
Alimuddin Usmani: The conflict in Gaza prompted many reactions from public personalities who normally stay quiet on the matter. The footballers Joey Barton and Yossi Benayoun were involved in a row on twitter. Can the angry reaction of Benayoun towards Barton be explained by the British player’s challenge to Jewish power?
Gilad Atzmon: I don’t think that this spat between an illiterate Israeli footballer and an ethically driven educated English person deserves our close scrutiny. What we can learn from this is that every person who identifies politically as a Jew, whether a footballer or a rocket engineer, is dedicated to the Jewish tribal cause
Alimuddin Usmani: How do you assess the work of the Israeli NGO B'tselem?
Gilad Atzmon: Btselem works to convey an image of humane and ethical Jewish thought. Israel needs Btselem. It also shows that Israel tolerates dissent and is far more open to opposition than Diaspora Jews. This trait is actually consistent with early Zionist ideology that sought to create a new Hebraic ‘civilized’ Jew. You may be surprised to hear that I actually see far more truth, ethical orientation and scholarship in the work of Israelis such as Btselem, Sand, Avnery, Gideon Levy, Shahak, Israel Shamir than in the convoluted mishmash produced by the so-called anti- Zionist Jews who try to conceal the inhumane aspects of Jewish ideology and Jewish nationalism.