April 18, 2010

Haaretz Tries to Save Israel's Soul

by Diane V. McLoughlin, writer, peace activist; Apr. 18, 2010
main website:  mcloughlinpost.com

One thing no one would argue:  Present-day Israel is chockfull of morality plays.

Haaretz newspaper journalist Amira Hass versus the 'infiltrator' military rules; Haaretz journalist Uri Blau and military whistle-blower Anat Kamm - these are but two recent   cases in point; cases caught between journalistic as well as state ethics on the one hand, and the higher natural law, or the laws that govern moral order, on the other.

In the strictest sense, journalist Caroline Glick may have scored points in parsing out weaknesses made in reporting by Haaretz journalist Amira Hass and others. But in my opinion, Ms. Glick fails the calling to impart the higher truth to which Hass and others aspire. To be fair, Ms. Glick is far from alone amongst her journalistic fellows in this regard.  Throw a dart at a map of the world, she will find company; plenty of it.

A central moral theme: A nationalism that rejects the common humanity we share with others can destroy the soul of a people; or, at least, that part of the soul worth mention.

To Caroline Glick, the greater crime fellow journalist Amira Hass commits is reporting about the 2009 changes to the 1969 'infiltrator' law, when to Ms. Glick these were 'minor' in character.

Ms. Glick, however, chooses not to address the occupation, the oppression or the expulsion of Palestinians that such military orders provide cover for.

However, it is the very fact of the existence of these military powers over an illegally occupied people that draws a world's jaundiced and critical eye toward Israel - not Amira Hass's discussion of it.  But apologists criticize the discussion, not the acts themselves, and therein lies the critical difference.

It is a particular wonder that Israel's apologists do not honestly seem to see it for what it all actually is.

Don't look!, they protest at those who protest - at a nationalistic state not quite yet a homogeneous nation; not quite ethnically cleansed of the other, the native Palestinian people who were always there; a people who may actually be direct descendants of Jews who never left. 

Don't listen!, they shout, to drown out the truth from reaching the ears of those whose only thought of Israel is of an ancient era when a gentle man walked the earth speaking of love, charity and forgiveness; people who fervently pray he may one day do so again, and who would not tolerate for a second what was being done to the Palestinian people - if they knew.

Don't speak!, they would order the morally brave, both within Israel and without; the truth above all else considered a threat to the state's aims.

To those like Ms. Glick, the greater crime, in the Kamm/Blau case, is the revealing of political assassinations that were committed, against Israeli law. To the apologists, treason is defined as revealing that Israel may have committed war crimes in Gaza - the truth being far more disturbing than extrajudicial execution or war crimes themselves.

It is not Haaretz, or Amira Hass, or Anat Kamm, or Uri Blau that endanger Jews.  It is the apologists and the blind supporters of Israel, who do so.  The horror of the infiltrator law  is the fact that Israel has been terrorizing a captive population for decades with it. 

The Palestinians are forced to live out their lives under military siege, occupation and terrorization from both the military and the illegal, violent 'settlers'.

Occupation and foreign colonization enforced at the point of guns:  One of the worst of crimes imaginable. 

The infiltrator law has been on the books since 1969 - yes. To Ms. Glick, the implication is that this renders it inocuous; harmless. It has, after all, to her, always been there. But the longer a people are yoked to oppression does not make the burden easier to bear or less wrong.  Naturally, the story of Moses immediately springs to mind.

The infiltrator military group of orders concerns themselves with which Palestinians are entitled to be here or there.  It is invalid, illegal law. It is simply the illegal occupier declaring that it will do what it will - throw you in jail, deport you, tear families apart - and, of course, steal your land - with impunity, whenever and to whomever it wants.

The test is this:  Those without the requisite papers are automatically deemed 'infiltrators'. But I challenge anyone to prove otherwise:  Palestinians BORN in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem cannot get these permits.  The required permits are not given.  Or they are given at whim.

This is but one of many freak-you-out forms of state terrorism under occupation.Any Jew who survived the horrors of Nazi terror could tell you all about this form of fundamental, coldly calculating, bureaucratic evil.

As for Anat Kamm, the analysis is the same. Rules of combat or war are there for very good reasons, and they are simple to understand.  What we choose to do we should expect no less from our adversaries.  In addition, extrajudicial political killing is just wrong.  It is a system of murder by which the murdered are denied the right to defend themselves in an open court of law.  In its very essence a state resorts to assassination because no ethical court of its own would condone murder; the commission of state-executed assassination verily screams that there is no evidence sufficient to prove the target guilty of any crime.

Sin is defined as causing a degree of spiritual death in the sinner.  The word is concerned with the harm done to the one who commits it. Murder makes cold-blooded killers of a country's citizens against the universal code of moral law, thus, weakening the moral fabric of all of society.  One could argue that we need look no further for evidence of this moral decay than to the efforts of Ms. Glick and others to silence those who would point out where Israel is wrong.  (A silence that may well include a prison sentence for the 23 year-old Anat Kamm of up to twenty years.)

On the outside looking in, state-sanctioned extrajudicial assassination destroys the state's reputation. And ipso facto, state-sanctioned extrajudicial assassination of one's political opponents means that your own political representatives will become targets for retaliation.
It is the mark of the weak and desperate; it is indefensible; and it is illegal under Israeli law.  It is why Ms. Kamm tried to expose what she found out - that certain actors were breaking the law, putting the country at risk.

One of the most serious concerns raised by Israeli apologists is that Uri Blau may have discovered that, in the lead up to Operation Cast Lead's assault on Gaza, operational guidelines had been drawn up on the ways in which it was deemed permissible to kill civilians (an odious squaring of the circle if there ever was one.) But their concern does not appear to extend to the question of whether or not it is right.  Mr. Blau currently is in self-imposed exile in Britain, fearing reprisals should he return home.

It is all part and parcel of the existential dilemmas the state has yet to resolve: secular or religious?  All men are equal or not? Proportionate force in battle, or kill disproportionately - even babies?  This last suggestion, from a recently published book by a dean-rabbi team employed at a yeshiva in a settlement in the West Bank:

'There is justification for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and not only during combat with adults.'
(Title of book, translated: 'The King's Teaching - INT'. See: Gilad Atzmon's article: 'The Complete Guide to Killing Non-Jews'; Nov. 18, 2010)

It may be fringe, but there are rabbis in Israel that espouse this stuff, and the state permits rabbis to be embedded within the military hierarchy itself.

For all of the reasons discussed above, the individuals that Ms. Glick so blithely would dismiss as traitors, are all in fact trying very hard to save Israel's soul.

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