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Red Rag column: preparing for war - but with whom?
Red Rag Column
By: Gideon Spiro
28 July 2010 (English translation posted 13 August 2010)

We’re preparing for war – but with whom?

An Israeli air force helicopter crashed in Romania when it struck a rock in the Carpathian Mountains. Four Israeli pilots and two Israeli mechanics as well as a Romanian observer were in the helicopter. As these lines are being written they are officially considered to be missing, but army spokespeople assume that they have all perished. (1) The day of the crash all the Israeli television channels interrupted their regular programming and went into “war broadcasting” mode. Three channels – the state channel and the two commercial channels – launched into identical chatter and every channel found some high-ranking officer who could not say much because he did not know more than the military-affairs correspondents, and they all artificially prolonged the discussion and repeated themselves over and over again.

What was an Israeli helicopter looking for in Romania? Are the realms of the Israeli empire not already extensive enough, that we have to go all the way to Romania?

The answer came from none other than the IDF spokesman Col. Avi Benayahu, a former colleague of mine from the newspaper Al Hamishmar, who announced to the press that the helicopter had been participating in a training exercise in preparation for war, a drill for flight in an unknown area.

What war? Why scare the blameless citizenry? Who is threatening Israel? To the best of my knowledge no military threat exists against Israel today. On the contrary, the Arab states long for peace, and Syria and the Palestinian Authority are begging for it. Was it a training exercise in preparation for an attack on Iran? Does Israel intend to fly helicopters to Iran carrying soldiers of so-called “elite” units like the General Staff Reconnaisance Unit (Sayeret Matkal) and Flotilla 13 (the elite naval unit that carried out the attack on the Turkish-led flotilla to Gaza on 31 May 2010) to some military adventure? That makes no sense, for Iran poses no threat to Israel at all. Its leaders even announced that they would respect any peace agreement that is reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

What is clear is that the war has not yet happened, but there are already victims. My heart goes out to the families that lost their loved ones.

I am entertaining the idea that exercises might be taking place in preparation for the dismantling of Israel’s nuclear arsenal and an airlift of all the workers at the reactor in Dimona away from the site before it is sealed in a structure of concrete and steel to prevent radioactive leakage. And I am entertaining the hope that they do not crash on one of the mountains of the Negev.

”Let them kill Arabs in peace”

We are currently witnessing a phenomenon without precedent in Israel. The police have declared war on the Supreme Court. Not just a few policemen, but the entire senior command echelon, including the Police Minister. Why all the hullabaloo?

All because of the policeman Shahar Mizrahi. Quite simply, that young man executed an Arab citizen, Muhammad Ghunaim, in the course of an operation against car thieves. The policeman was put on trial for manslaughter. The Haifa District Court ruled that the policeman had shot Gunaim in the absence of any danger to his life and sentenced him to 15 months in prison.

The prosecution launched an appeal against the leniency of the sentence, and Shahar Mizrahi launched an appeal against the conviction and the sentence. The Supreme Court, in a panel headed by President Dorit Beinish, accepted the State’s appeal and doubled Mizrahi’s sentence to 30 months. It is still a light sentence, considering that the maximum sentence for manslaughter is 20 years.

The police were enraged. The Minister, the Inspector-General, the major-generals and retired senior officers all exploded in anger and launched a campaign of delegitimization against the ruling. As far as they are concerned the Supreme Court has gone crazy. And they are right. They are used to the backing that the Israeli courts, from Magistrate’s Courts all the way up to the Supreme Court, give to the police as well as the army whenever the killing of Arabs is concerned. And lo, suddenly, without any advance warning, in a complete surprise move, the Supreme Court declares that the life of an Arab citizen, even one who is suspected of stealing a car, has value too, and that a policeman does not have the authority to execute a citizen with a bullet to the brain – even if that citizen is an Arab.

The police want a free hand to kill Arabs like the South African police had a free hand to kill Blacks under Apartheid. It had not occurred to the Police command and the responsible minister, a member of Lieberman’s party, that a Jewish policeman could be convicted and imprisoned for killing an Arab. It drives them crazy. Many of Israel’s journalists sided with the police, saying that the Supreme Court is “living in a bubble.” Those same judges had received praise from those same journalists when they handed down rulings in favour of the killing of Arabs. Then, of course, the judges were not living in a bubble but were in touch with the People.

Currently the leaders of the police are mobilizing efforts to persuade the President of the State to give amnesty to the killer policeman. It will be interesting to see how President Shimon Peres will respond to this – will he succumb to the racist hysteria and grant amnesty, or will he do the right thing and back the Supreme Court?

Meanwhile the police are threatening the public by saying that the police will lose motivation to struggle against crime and that they will be afraid to use firearms. Excellent. The police are not there to kill citizens, or humiliate them, or torture or harass them; but to protect them.

To the right of the Right

Haim Pearlman is a man of the extreme Right, close to the followers of Kahane, and he participated with them in more than a few provocations in the Occupied Territories. In short: a confirmed racist. The ISA (Israel’s internal security police) tried to enlist him as an informer, and he recorded his conversations with the ISA recruiter. The transcript was published in the newspapers, and a very troubling picture emerged from them about the ISA’s methods of recruiting agents. The ISA man tried to convince Pearlman to assassinate Sheikh Ra’ed Salah, and Pearlman responded with reluctance, not so much at the idea of the crime, but because of the chances of the assassin’s identity being discovered after the deed was done.

After the publication of the transcript, Pearlman was arrested as a suspect in the murder of four Palestinians and the stabbing of other Palestinians during the 1990s in Jerusalem.

People close to Pearlman claim that the arrest was the ISA’s revenge for the publication of the transcript, and the ISA investigators for their part claim that Pearlman’s statements connected him to the murders.

The ISA subjected Pearlman to interrogation techniques that are known to be applied to Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Isolation from the outside world, intensive questioning and a prohibition on meeting with a lawyer. After two weeks of questioning, Pearlman’s lawyer submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court to compel the ISA to permit him to meet with his client.

Denial of access to a lawyer is a serious violation of a suspect’s rights. Judge Edmond Levy, a right-winger, formerly a military judge and Likud deputy-mayor of Ramle, took the rare decision to compel the ISA to permit a meeting between Pearlman and his lawyer. The judge stated that the rights of the accused take precedence over the interests of the investigators. An excellent decision. Too bad that it applies only to racist Jews. The Palestinians in the Occupied Territories yearn for decisions like that, and do not get them.

Following the meeting Pearlman told of interrogations that lasted day and night, accompanied by tortures such as binding, yelling into his ears, slaps and punches. In short: the methods that have been familiar to Palestinians throughout the 43 years of the Occupation.

Pearlman’s friends, like Pearlman himself, do not get agitated over those methods when they are applied to Palestinians. On the contrary, they endorse them wholeheartedly. But when they are the victims, suddenly they remember about human rights and all kinds of wonderful principles that are usually invoked by – God forbid – left-wing human rights organizations!

Presumably some opponents of the Occupation will instinctively respond by saying that this is no big deal: let those racists feel what the Palestinians feel every day of the year. But a principled and wise analysis cannot lead to that conclusion. Our opposition – unlike that of the racists of the Right – to irregular methods of interrogation, torture and denial of access to lawyers is principled and universal and applies to all, without distinction by religion, nationality, gender or political opinion. Accordingly, this column joins in the protest against the denial of Pearlman’s rights or those of any other person, and joins in the demand that the rights of suspects be respected when they are in the interrogation rooms.

A haven for sadists

Nadav Heiman, a soldier in the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit, disappeared in the middle of the night while his unit was in a training exercise. The army conducted extensive searches, his picture was published, and there was fear that something had happened to him, but it all ended well: Nadav had walked 20 kilometres to his home. Much astonishment was expressed in the press and on television: what happened to that soldier in an elite unit? It had never happened before in the unit that a soldier left in the middle of a training exercise. After all, these are soldiers who had undergone a selection process of dozens of interviews and background checks, and each of them had the psychological profile of a virtual “superman.” So what happened?

It turns out that the soldiers of the unit were about to start the last and hardest part of their training, in which the soldiers were to undergo a simulated capture by the enemy. The exercise included humiliation and murderous blows, tortures which officially are supposed to prepare the soldier in case of capture. There are psychologists who oppose exercises of this kind, because they can cause lifelong trauma. Only recently we heard about one such soldier, who at age 54 was certified as an invalid due to traumas and tortures he had undergone, which took him beyond the limits of endurance.

There are soldiers who were broken and fall to pieces, and the effects are long-term.

In my opinion, training of this kind is completely superfluous. A simulation cannot resemble real captivity and it could never anticipate the real situations that could arise when a soldier is captured. This series of exercises constitutes a legal haven for sadists who love to land blows and humiliate people, but beyond that it is pointless. Nadav did well when he excused himself from that harmful exercise.

Al-‘Araqib Mon Amour

The twenty-seventh of July 2010 will be recorded as a dark day in relations between the State of Israel and its Bedouin citizens. On that day the government of Israel demonstrated its heroism by mobilizing 1,300 police to provide security while an entire village in the Negev, al-‘Araqib, was demolished.

Hundreds of citizens, including women and children, were left without shelter in the scorching heat of summer.

Wiping villages off the face of the Earth is a punitive measure used by cruel dictatorships. In the Second World War Germany destroyed the Czech village of Lidice as punishment for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the head of Reich Main Security Office, by fighters of the Czech Underground.

The “Jewish democracy” called Israel has proved that it is not necessary for a member of the regime’s leadership to be assassinated for a village to be wiped off the face of the Earth. It is enough to be a peaceable Bedouin Arab who wants only to tend the land that he has owned since before the “Jewish democracy” came into existence, to provoke the State to destroy, plunder, demolish and even to kill if necessary. It is not good to be an Arab citizen in the “Jewish democracy.”

We would do well to compare today: on the one hand, a demolished Bedouin village, and on the other, Jewish families who receive isolated farms that were created on the lands that were stolen from the Bedouin.

The evil mission may be accomplished, but sometimes there is a price to be paid, even if it is delayed. The Bedouin Intifada has come another step closer.

I hope that al-‘Araqib will be rebuilt, as Lidice was.

And the typical talkbacker will certainly indignantly ask me: are you saying that Lidice and al-‘Araqib are the same thing? Of course not. So far, the differences remain large ones, to put it mildly. But there are points of similarity between every racist regime, and so the solutions are also sometimes similar, despite all the differences in historical circumstances and details. The similarity is that a village was demolished, the people of which did not enjoy equal rights and suffered from the injustices of the regime.

Translator’s note

1. All six Israelis on the helicopter died:

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent

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