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Red Rag Column
By: Gideon Spiro
8 April 2010
(English translation: 13 April)

The open secret has been revealed

After most of the important newspapers in the world published the “secret affair”, that is, the story of Anat Kam – those who surfed on the Internet already knew everything in any case – certain members of the Israeli establishment came to their senses and asked the court to lift the publication ban. A few months ago the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) asked the court for a complete media blackout on the affair for “national security” reasons. Most judges in Israel experience a Pavlovian response when they hear the word “security” from the ISA or the police, and their thought-processes shut down.

What is true of judges in general is true of Einat Ron in particular, who served in the army for 24 years as a military prosecutor and military judge, from 1981 to 2005. In 2007 she was appointed as a judge in the Petah Tikvah Magistrates’ Court. Twenty-four years in the service of the Occupation army accustomed her to being a gatekeeper for the army in the justice system. Another example of how the army takes control over important junctures in Israeli society without the need for a military coup.

The judges, like the ISA and the police, should have understood that in the age of the Internet it is impossible to suppress information, even if the army defines it as secret. The blogosphere justly does not give a hoot for all the code words of the Israeli security establishment, which more than once has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the name of “national security.”

Now, with the lifting of the publication ban, what has already been known for some time – that Anat Kam represents no danger to the security of the State, and she is not the real criminal – has become clear. By using the democratic media to deter crimes by the regime, she fulfilled her role as a citizen with a democratic consciousness, the importance of which is hard to exaggerate. The moment she perceived that the army in which she was serving as a clerk in the office of the Head of the Central Command was acting contrary to law and justice, she began gathering information and then gave it to the press. That is an act of conscientious citizenship. The criminals who should be put on trial are the former Head of the Central Command, Yair Naveh, and the Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, who authorized the executions of Palestinians in contravention of the instructions of the High Court of Justice.

The “secret” documents, which according to the charge-sheet Anat Kam handed over to the journalist Uri Blau of the newspaper Haaretz and which were publicized in an article in November 2008, did not cause any harm to the security of the State, but they did compromise high-ranking officers who acted like gods, deciding who would live and who would die.

The charge-sheet against Anat Kam includes items like aggravated espionage, which are intended to inflate the accusation to monstrous proportions and cause her to be imprisoned for many years. Experience with the courts in this domain has been very bad. In such cases judges generally behave like servants of the security establishment.

One can anticipate with a great deal of confidence that the journalists who act as emissaries of the ISA and the army in the media will be mobilized to divert attention away from the criminality of the Chief of Staff, the Head of the Central Command and others, and towards the “theft of documents” that is alleged in the charge-sheet against Anat Kam, and to incite public opinion against her.

That campaign has already been launched by Ron Ben-Yishai, the former commander of IDF Radio and today the military commentator for Yediot Aharonot’s website Ynet, the largest news website in Israel.

Those who have not become entangled in the web of military propaganda will continue to support Anat Kam and others like her, because the right of the public to know, and public scrutiny of the various branches of government are among the last lines of defence that are left to us against the conversion of Israel within the Green Line into another Middle Eastern dictatorship of the type that Israel is operating in the Occupied Territories.

Uri Blau is a courageous journalist who has published information that embarrassed the army more than once. He has been staying outside the country for some time now because he has not received a guarantee of full immunity from prosecution. The lines being written here are a preliminary response. There are other issues that will need to be clarified: did Haaretz scrupulously provide hermetic protection to the sources of information? Was it necessary to print photographs of documents that were classified as “top secret” alongside Blau’s article, thereby providing the ISA with motivation to launch an investigation?

In conclusion: more power to those who hand over information to the press about war crimes that are committed by the Israeli Occupation army, and more power to the newspapers that publish it.

A profane holiday

For years I have not really celebrated Passover. The gap between the concept of a holiday that is supposed to be symbolize our departure to freedom, and the actual situation, in to which the State of Israel denies the freedom of another people, is intolerable by my lights. During the seven days of the holiday millions of Israeli citizens travel all over the country and take trips abroad, while the Palestinian people are subjected to a siege in Gaza and to the tender mercies of the checkpoints in the West Bank, all this against the background of settler pogroms that have become routine now, so I breathe a sigh of relief when the holiday comes to a close.

Nor do I find the Passover Haggadah inspiring. It is a document that endorses racism and the destruction of peoples, such as that part that begins: “Pour out Your wrath on the nations that do not know You, and on the kingdoms that do not call on Your name,” and concludes with “In Your anger, pursue and destroy them from under the heavens of the Lord.” There were and still are Jews who are ashamed of that passage, and it does not appear in alternative Haggadot. It is no coincidence that that passage was omitted in the seder that President Obama held in the White House as a gesture to the Jewish community.

Beyond that passage and other violent passages that are scattered throughout the Haggadah, the whole thing is an incoherent and quite boring text, which whomever wrote it was not always stable. If the Haggadah did not exist and a young person with literary pretensions were to submit a text like it to a publishing house today, the manuscript would be returned to him or her with the observation: “the composition is immature and rather confused. Come back when you are a little more mature.”

”They didn’t have to die”

In a previous column I wrote about the heroism of the soldiers of the Israeli Occupation army who killed four young unarmed Palestinians, including one minor. The army conducted an investigation, which concluded that the killing was unnecessary. The headline in the newspaper Haaretz was: “IDF: the killing of the Palestinians near Nablus could have been prevented.” (6 April 2010).

Since when does the Occupation army care about the lives of Palestinians? It does not care and it did not implement any meaningful change. The situation in the Occupied Territories is a lot calmer for the Israeli occupier these days. The security forces of the Palestinian Authority do an efficient job of suppressing any resistance against the Occupation. There is “good cooperation,” as the newspapers report, between commanders of the Occupation and the commanders of the Palestinian police. It would be a shame to spoil that ideal because of four dead Palestinians. The fear that their killing will spark a new eruption of resistance has forced the army to come up with a “reassuring” message, according to which there were “errors in the operations of the forces.”

So what will happen? Will any commanders or soldiers of the Occupation army be put on trial for murder or manslaughter? Don’t make the army laugh. After all, when all is said and done it was four Palestinians – not Jews – who were killed, and no one will be brought to justice for that. Thus that’s the way the Occupation is. They kill, then they take a breather before the next killing.

Pornography of death

During 43 years of Occupation the Israeli Occupation forces – army, police, ISA and the settler phalanges have killed thousands of Palestinians, wounded tens of thousands and arrested and tortured hundreds of thousands. The Palestinian victims are called shahids [shahid = “martyr” in Arabic], that is, people who died in war for their people or their religion. (the Druze victims from the Israeli army are also called shahids.

More than once the Israeli media have publicized declarations by Palestinian mothers who lost their children in the struggle to liberate their people from the Occupation – very patriotic declarations in which they expressed identification with their children’s struggle. Commentators and journalists, some of whom are glorified as “experts on Arab affairs,” have tended to write that “that’s the way it is in the Arab world, there is no respect for life, they are proud of the dead.”

When exactly the same things happen in Israel, then the mothers and the wives of the victims are represented as heroic and noble – only two of the many flattering descriptions that have been bestowed on them.

Recently Major Eliraz Peretz, a deputy battalion commander in the Golani Brigade, who was one of the growing numbers of religious settlers who have attained high ranks in the army, was killed. He was killed while invading Gaza with his unit. He fell into an ambush set by Hamas fighters, which stopped the invading force, killed two and wounded another two.

The invading force folded and returned to Israeli territory. Some in the army said that the force’s incursion into the Strip had not been executed properly, and some even expressed the view that it was unnecessary, but I will not go into operational details that I do not know about. What is clear to me is that the death of Eliraz Peretz and others who have been killed on the altar of the siege of Gaza was indeed unnecessary, that the siege itself is unnecessary, as is the military conflict with Hamas, for the ceasefire could have continued if Israel had not broken it with military action in the Strip. Today we know that it was a premeditated violation as part of the plan for the Gaza War (officially called “Cast Lead”).

None of that diminishes the tragedy of the Peretz family. Neither for his mother, Miriam Peretz, of whom Eliraz was her second son to be killed – the first was killed in the First Lebanon War (another unnecessary death because the war was unnecessary), nor for his wife Shulamit Peretz, herself also a settler, who has been left with four small children, the smallest of whom is two months old.

The two women did not suffer in silence, and before Eliraz was even buried – much less before the end of the shiva* – they came out with declarations of a right-wing political hue, the thrust of which was that the Occupation and the settlements must continue. That is the message of the fallen, in their opinion.

Those declarations turned them into media heroines, and their statements were featured in long sympathetic and empathetic feature reports in the print and broadcast media.

The new widow Shulamit Peretz travelled with her four small children – I think it was in the middle of the shiva – to the position where her husband had been stationed with his unit on the border with the Strip. The soldiers showed the children where their father had slept and eaten. At the end of the tour the children danced with the soldiers to the tune of the song “My Golani”. (report in Maariv, 1 April 2010). I found that hard to swallow, but maybe that is the way mourning takes place when soldiers and settlers come together.

So what is the difference between the Palestinian mothers and the Israeli ones? There is no difference and there is a difference. It is important for mothers to feel that their sons were not killed for nothing: that, they share in common. The difference is that the Palestinian mothers live on the side that is ruled over and oppressed, whereas the Israeli mothers are on the ruling and oppressing side.

Of course, there are other mothers, of the type that are not prepared to delude themselves that their sons “fell on the altar of defence of the homeland” when they know the truth. Those mothers and fathers, who decide not to shelter under the nationalist umbrella of sanctity of death, and enlist in the struggle for peace that will put a stop to the cycle of bereavement for both sides, are the true heroines in my eyes.

* The traditional seven-day Jewish period of mourning, during which members of the immediate family of the deceased normally stay at home and receive visitors – trans.

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent.

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