A portrait of 'the only democracy in the Middle East'. With thanks to Harold Wilson.
Published 01:29 31.10.10
Israel is proud to present: The aggressor-victim
Israelis have always loved victimization, not only when we were real victims, as often was the case in our history, but also when we were the aggressors, occupiers and abusers.
By Gideon Levy
Once upon a time the staple piece of clothing was the blue shirt of the Labor Movement, and songwriter Mordechai Zeira sang about it: "And it's much better than all jewels." A new generation has arrived, and its shirt is darker. Today it's black and bears the legend: We are all the victims of Goldstone.
Dozens of friends of the two Givati Brigade soldiers arrived wearing these infuriating shirts at a military court a few days ago. Their friends had been convicted of overextending their authority while risking the life of an 11-year-old, and to be precise, of conduct unbecoming of soldiers. The soldiers received the scandalous support of senior officers, and the two convicted men have become heroes.
Israel is proud to present: The aggressor-vicitim. History has known crueler and even longer occupations than the Israeli one, and there have been much worse attacks on civilian populations than Operation Cast Lead. But there has never been an occupier who presented himself like that, as a victim.
From the days of Golda Meir, who said we will never forgive the Arabs for forcing us to hurt their children, to the combatants who shot and wept, we have set, courtesy of the Givati troops, a new record of Israeli chutzpah: We are all the victims of Goldstone.
The victimhood, it turns out, belongs not to an 11-year-old child whose life was put at risk and who has been suffering from insomnia ever since, but the soldiers who ordered him to check for explosives, in clear contradiction of a ruling by the Supreme Court.
Not the Samouni family, 21 of whose members were butchered when the same Givati Brigade, under the same commander, bombed the house into which the soldiers ordered the family, but the brigade commander, Ilan Malka, whose conduct is now being investigated, shamefully late. And certainly not the residents of Gaza, who experienced Cast Lead with its hardships, horrors, destruction and war crimes, but the soldiers, who share responsibility with the commanders and politicians.
We've always loved victimization, not only when we were real victims, as often was the case in our history, but also when we were the aggressors, occupiers and abusers. And we don't only cast ourselves as victims, but as the only victims. But observe our perception of our wrongdoing. It started with denial, then changed to suppression, then to shamelessness, then to dehumanization and demonization, until we arrived at the current stage: A pride parade.
The soldiers taking pictures of themselves dancing with prisoners and posing with corpses are proud of what they do. They upload the footage onto the Web, for all to see, and friends of the two Givati troops are equally proud of what their mates have done. They're proud of the conduct of people who broke the law. Their solidarity may be understandable, but it's much more difficult to understand the support of their brigade commander, Col. Moni Katz, and Maj. Gen. (res. ) Uzi Dayan.
What are they saying - that the soldiers acted correctly? That they should not be punished? That they are victims? In that case, we have little to claim from the soldiers, who were only acting according to the spirit emanating from their superiors. But most difficult to understand is the widespread public support for the two. Just like the Nahariya policeman convicted of placing bombs to injure suspected mobsters, they are local heroes and national victims to many.
Do we really want to be proud of the soldiers ordering children to risk their lives, in violation of the law? Is this how we want the army to behave? Will Israeli public opinion never accept that war has rules and that if Israeli soldiers break them, they must be punished? True, they may have been carrying out orders, they may have been jaded and exhausted after three weeks of the assault on Gaza, as the court has heard. But casting them as victims testifies to the chaos overtaking Israel.
So we should go back to basics. The victims of Cast Lead are the 1.5 million residents of Gaza. The "victims" of the Goldstone report are not the two convicts, but their own victims. The shirts worn by their friends in court are proof that these basic truths have been blurred and distorted beyond recognition.