The Middle East:

Commentary and Analysis


It would be worthwhile for once to try the power of generosity and goodwill and sincerity.

Our foppish self-righteousness
By Shulamit Aloni
Ha'aretz July 30 2003

Since the start of the intifada, more than 800 Israelis, mostly civilians, have been killed by Palestinians. We, justifiably, call it "murder." Some were killed by suicide bombers and the rest with other instruments of death. At the same time, more than 2,200 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis - some as armed suspects, and almost all from soldiers' fire. We don't call these casualties "murdered."

But perhaps these deaths should also be referred to as murders. All the instruments of death that came from the sky, and the tanks, and the snipers were aimed at "the enemy" as the chief of staff says, or in "wartime operations" as Judge Advocate General Menachem Finkelstein says; and so there's no need to interrogate soldiers and prosecute the killers of civilians. Furthermore, adds the law-abiding JAG, "It is impossible to conduct 2,000 investigations into 2,000 deaths" (Haaretz, July 10).

But he didn't conduct investigations when there were only 50 cases of murdered Palestinians or when there were 100. So why put murderers and abusers on trial now when there are so many? Wait, he did, finally, find eight cases to investigate, for shooting incidents.

And of course, there's no comparing Jewish blood to Palestinian blood. Palestinians, after all, use the terrible weapon of suicide; while on our side, everything is aesthetic and elegant: Bombs fall out of the sky and the pilot goes home safely; the tanks fire flechettes; and our skilled snipers always hit their target. Of course, nobody ever asks which target.

We fight the "enemy" and a large number of the "murders" are acts of war. Of course they - the Palestinians - aren't fighting an enemy; they are fighting an enlightened occupation that has anted to give them sovereignty for the last 36 years, but has found it difficult to do so because they are living on land that was ours 1,900 years ago and we want it only for ourselves.

Or maybe we are a greedy occupier, looting their land (at least as far as they are concerned), uprooting, and demolishing, and expelling, and breaking into their homes. And still, we aren't an enemy; and still, we think it's an enlightened occupation; and our chief of staff is doing everything he can to sear into the consciousness of the occupied that they should love the occupier who holds them prisoners in their homes until they are hungry, until they are completely humiliated - and all for the sake of getting them to finally understand who are the masters of the land and who are the servants.

Everything I've written here is known by everyone, but forbidden to state aloud because it is not patriotic. After all, everything we are doing is so our enemies won't bring another Holocaust down upon us. That's how it is explained to us - over and over again.

And how can our enemies bring down another Holocaust upon us? That, apparently, must not be asked. After all, we have peace with Egypt and Jordan, and Iraq is no threat, and Iran is the entire world's problem.

So, who are we afraid of? The Palestinians? Isn't that a bad joke? But we aren't allowed to say that because our Jewish paranoia is very serious, and the public relations people of the army and the greedy of the Greater Land of Israel know how to manipulate it very nicely.

And that's the reason we are allowed to kill them and assassinate them and murder them without any indictment or trial, to arrest their patriots without any explanation, any trial and without any time limit. And of course, some are arrested for bargaining purposes, just like the terrorist gangs do.

If indeed someone in our government wants to bring an end to the killing and put an end to the sowing of death, they must free the Palestinian prisoners - not the thieves and burglars, but those we declared "the enemy," thereby justifying the killing of hundreds and thousands of them - including those about whom it is said they have blood on their hands. Does not the sniper or pilot who sows death have blood on his hands?

Our foppish self-righteousness; the utter insensitivity of the JAG who is concerned with chasing after draft dodgers but finds it difficult to prosecute murderers because there are so many; we, apparently are allowed everything, for we are "the ultimate victims," even when we are the occupiers and we have the power.

Enough! The occupation is too expensive, too demanding, too destructive. Let the political prisoners go - the old and the new. Give a chance to an end to the murders and the building of calm; and in its wake, give peace a chance. It would be worthwhile for once to try the power of generosity and goodwill and sincerity.

The writer is a former MK and minister from Meretz.
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