The Devil Sings Again By Gilad Atzmon
It was at the beginning of last week. I returned home early enough to watch the BBC News at Ten. I placed myself in my TV couch and prepared myself for the usual, boring broadcast. My interest waxes and wanes. Another privatization, the Queen Mother, foreign affairs. In short, nothing to write home about. As a matter of fact, I love boring news; it justifies my emigration to Britain. The news starts: "Two Palestinian children were killed today by a missile fired from an Israeli helicopter". Within seconds my TV screen is filled with the familiar images of the landscape of my homeland. Yellowish sandstone mountains dotted with olive trees, a calm Arab town visible in the valley below. Suddenly the camera points up to the sky and searches for something. It captures two Israeli Cobra helicopters high up in the blue. A sudden cut and we are taken back to the ground. The camera zooms into the town where dozens of Palestinians are running for their lives desperately trying to escape. They fail to understand that by running they become a target. The camera pans up to the sky and captures the two helicopters again. It looks as if one of the helicopters fires a missile and the camera follows its track. An explosion is seen. The missile has arrived at its destination, a crowded traffic jam in the centre of a highly populated Palestinian city. We learn from the BBC reporter that the missiles were aimed at a Hamas militant leader. According to the Israelis, he has 'fresh blood on his hands'. At the time of the strike, the Hamas man was trapped in his car. Apparently, he was only lightly injured but two children who were travelling with their father in the car behind were blown to pieces. The father was lucky. He just lost his legs.
Next we see Mr. Ra'anan Gisin, the Israeli government spokesman. Confidently, he argues that "Israel has the right to defend itself". Only when asked about the two innocent kids he offers his condolences to the family. "It was a mistake", he says. For a brief moment I loosen up. Mr Gisin's reply is what I consider to be real Jewish kindness and compassion. This government spokesman agreed that even the Israelis can get it wrong. What a modest approach. For twenty five seconds I was
proud to be an Israeli of Jewish descent. After a couple of minutes I realized that my pride was rather premature. The full scope of the devastation meted out by the Israeli government and its military forces began to dawn on me. Again, the Israelis proved that they have no respect for people's lives unless those people are Jewish. The BBC report ends by showing a Palestinian medical assistant closing two refrigerator doors behind what is left of the young bodies. The time is four minutes after ten. I am still seated in my TV room with a clear image of the severe injustice perpetrated by my people. I am left to ponder a helicopter pilot who has sent two innocent children to heaven. The cruelty of my people follows me wherever I go.
Pilots are not ordinary soldiers. They are the most highly educated of lower rank military personnel. In order to become an Israeli military pilot one must first go through twelve years of basic education. Only after being found uniquely qualified and distinctively excellent is one allowed to volunteer for the air force and attend the army flying school. The training is incredibly challenging and only the very best manage to pass. In the final stage of flying school, having proved their high degree of responsiblity, the young pilots become commanders. All Israeli pilots are army officers, which gives them the legal right to judge and refuse amoral orders. Knowing this, I found myself contemplating the BBC report. I understood that there, in the sky, an excellent and educated Israeli man, the salt of the Jewish earth,
decided to fire a missile into a traffic jam crowded with civilians. A very unusual decision for an 'excellent' and 'responsible person' to be making. "Is the pilot a war criminal?" I asked myself.
Knowing that at that very moment the pilot was not alone in the air does not make it any easier for me. It is clear that the pilot was communicating with his high command, probably with his wing commander and most likely with the air force chief commander. I would not be surprised if the Israeli defense minister was kept very much informed in real time at that very specific moment. It is most likely that highly trained Israeli ground commando soldiers were very close to the scene
and helped to navigate the missile with hi-tech laser beam technology. They could have called off the operation knowing that the environment was not safe enough for action. But, as we know, nobody called it off. A green light was given and they all decided to proceed. The defense minister, the air force commander, the wing commander and the commander of the ground forces all decided to take the risk of killing civilians. The airman was therefore not alone. He simply stands at the end of a long chain of devoted war criminals with no ethical commitment.
The fact that Israel presents itself as the 'only democracy in the Middle East' makes it even worse. The pilot who is successfully playing the role of a war criminal in the BBC report is, in practice, acting on behalf of the Israeli government. Since Israel is a democracy, the pilot is acting on behalf of the majority of the Israeli population
unless proved otherwise. Every western leader must be aware of the disadvantages of conducting a war within a democratic regime. Democracies are not allowed to fight dirty, they ought to conduct themselves according to the ethical rules of war. A government that receives its mandate from the people must contaminate the moral state of that people with the heavy burden of its crimes against humanity. But strangely, the Israeli people does not condemn its government's misconduct. Indeed, many of its members are delighted with the way their government operates the 'war against terror'.
That night I could not shut my eyes. The realization of the scale and the depth of my people's wrongdoing made me extremely disturbed. I tried to grasp what the Israelis want to achieve. What is their objective? How can a government become so irresponsible toward human life? What is the origin of that strange form of colonial regime? I really wanted to understand how politicians and military men take decisions to fire missiles into civilians. I asked myself how a state could become such a
productive murderous institution.
Reflecting on all this during that night, I began to understand the Israeli government's destructive approach. My point of departure was based on the assumption that there must be a tactical reason for the Israeli government to operate in such an inhuman manner toward the Palestinian people. On the one hand, the Israeli government must seek some kind of revenge to satisfy the Jewish population. On the other hand, it must try to formulate a tactic that will communicate a clear
message to the Palestinian people.
It is very clear that many Israelis are overwhelmingly delighted when they hear about the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians. Considering the growing involvement of Jewish Israelis with their ancient spiritual codes, I assume that the celebration over Palestinian blood refers directly to the biblical call for "an eye for an eye, a
tooth for a tooth". Proof of this kind of bestial gratification can be found daily in "ynet", the biggest Israeli news website. Whenever Palestinians are hit, hundreds of Israelis send messages of support to the newsroom. The messages all approve of the killing of innocent civilians by the Israeli Defense Force. If this is not enough, many of these Jewish blood surfers disapprove of any Israeli leader of the Left offering condolences to the families of Palestinian victims. In short, if the Israeli Jews demand Palestinian blood, the Israeli government, in its search for greater popularity, is willing to provide it.
Although some people are tempted to regard the vicious Israeli attacks merely as a form of revenge, I believe that a more sophisticated doctrine lies at the core of this murderous activity. One might have expected the government and the army of the chosen people to display some form of advanced tactics that goes beyond a simple emotional reaction. I must therefore assume that in killing civilians, the Israelis are also trying to communicate a message to the Palestinian people.
The message is very clear. We, the Israelis, do not regard you, Palestinians, as human beings. We do not regard you as people with any legal rights. We the Israelis will inflict on you the Palestinians, continual humiliation, whenever and wherever we choose. We will strike out at your civilian institutions. We will humiliate your national
pride. We will disrespect your leaders. We will kill you whenever it suits our internal political convenience.
This is a very strong message to deal with. A message like this will push its recipient to the very extreme. Strangely enough, this type of message and the medium in which it is delivered are very typical of the philosophy of the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon. During his military and political career, Sharon has managed to prove that for him, human life and general ethics are the least important issues. Sharon does not value human life, neither his enemy's nor his own people's. In
the 1970's Sharon tried to lead Jordan into a civil war between the Jordanian population and the Palestinian refugees. In the 1980's he did very much the same to the Lebanese. He tried to turn Lebanon into an Israeli protectorate by supporting first the Shi'ite and then the Christian minority. In Sharon's defense, one must admit that he wasn't very careful with the lives of his own soldiers either. In the 1973 war, Brigadier Sharon managed to lead his entire brigade into an Egyptian ambush. This battle, referred to as the 'Chinese Farm', was one of the most infamous cases of waste of human lives in the military history of the Jewish state. Now it looks as if Sharon has decided to challenge his own remarkable past achievements with a new human disaster. This time he is aiming for total destruction.
Sharon's strategic approach involves joining forces with those he regards as amongst the most devious and cruel. In the 1970s, he attempted to sacrifice Hussein, the Jordanian king, and sided with Arafat, Israel's biggest enemy at that time. In the 1980s, he joined forces with the Lebanese Amal militias and Christian paramilitary groups known for their brutality. He gave the Christians a free hand, which led to the notorious Sabra and Shatila massacres. Sharon's history can be viewed as a wide, red avenue littered with devastated human remains.
In the light of Sharon's bloody history, we must try to understand his most recent role. Clearly, he is using every possible method to render Arafat and the Palestinian authority as total outcasts so that the only alternative for the Palestinian authority is a form of radical Islamic government. Arafat's absence will turn the Palestinian dream of a civilized multicultural state into a religious Islamic affair. By continually humiliating the Palestinian people, Sharon is leading them all toward complete despair that leads to suicidal activities. Sharon and his government are turning Palestine into a religious and tribal regime. Through despair and frustration, he is pushing young Palestinians into desperate action. His tactics is very simple. First he will turn the Palestinians into Taliban look-alikes and then he will flatten them in much the same way as his mentor George W. Bush has done. Sharon's tactics always looks brilliant on paper and within government cabinet meetings. In real life something always goes wrong. The Palestinians never managed to take over Jordan. In fact, they lost any power they once had in Jordanian politics. The Christian phalanges did
not hold on to power in Lebanon. Instead, Lebanon turned into a slaughterhouse for Israeli soldiers. Eventually, following relatively heavy loses, the Israelis were forced to withdraw from Lebanon, presenting the Arab world with a new form of Jewish weakness and vulnerability. Even the 'Chinese Farm' battle turned out to be a
complete waste of human resources. Four years after the 73 war, Israel agreed to withdraw all its forces from the Sinai desert and, much against Sharon's will, a peace deal was signed with Egypt.
Within the Zionist framework, Sharon's tactics is completely logical. He provides Jews and Palestinians with an unresolved conflict. He is right to do so because there is no resolution to the conflict as long as Israel maintains its Zionist, nationalistic and racial ideals. Zionism is based on conflict and the denial of the rights of the Other. Under Sharon's supervision, the Israeli media protects Israelis from learning about the atrocities that are committed by the Israeli army against Palestinian civilians. Therefore, the Israeli public regards any attack on it as evidence of Palestinian barbarity and inhumanity. Israeli propaganda denies the Israelis any real understanding of the actual chain of events. As a result, increasing numbers of Israelis are happy to become members of Sharon's flattening squad. More Israelis approve of the call for the 'evacuation'(transfer) of the Palestinian people. Indeed, the evacuation process has already begun. The Israeli helicopter pilot, the wing commander, the ground commando unit, the air force commander, the minister of defense and the vast majority of the Israeli population have all joined forces in delivering death to innocent children. Very few Israelis speak out against Sharon's policy and most support his devious scheme.
In this battle we must take a stand. We have to decide whether to support a people that have been ethnically cleansed and living under oppression for more than fifty years or whether to support a racial, nationalistic regime based on a philosophy of endless confrontation.