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Nowhere to Go Back to

Editor`s note: in August 2010 the Israeli media became obsessed with “the Galant Document” related to the fight among IDF generals over the coveted Chief-of-Staff (COS) post to be announced soon. Such fights had been ugly before, but this episode sets a new record. The document, said to be leaked to the press from a leading PR office, laid out a blueprint for getting General Galant appointed by smearing both his opponents and the sitting COS. As of now, it seems the document was actually forged, probably by one of the opposing camps in order to smear Galant himself.
Ofri Ilani weighs in, reminding us how the Israeli public and its media place these very same people on a pedestal.

Nowhere to Go Back to
Ofri Ilani, HaEmori Blog, August 19

It would seem that the Galant document brouhaha should not be of too much interest. It is the sort of thing that excites military correspondents who enjoy convening with generals. Sima Kadmon, for example, waxed apoplectic about the violation of the Israeli army’s good reputation yesterday, on the front page of the Yediot Acharonot daily. “We believed that the IDF General Staff was a sort of national park,” she wrote. It is hard to argue with matters of faith, but for the sake of her children’s health, I hope she doesn’t take them to this kind of national park on a Saturday morning. I would also prefer not to give any thought to the possible value of the other insights she publishes.
In any event, it seems to me that cases such as the Galant document or then-COS’s Dan Halutz massive stock sale just as he was ordering the start of the 2006 Lebanon war, do still have some significance. They remind anyone who has forgotten what is actually going on here, whose interest it all serves, and just who it is who should be apologizing. Because here and there a sentiment emerges and whispers on one’s ear, that maybe the whole thing about Zionism and the Israeli army is not all that bad. Maybe our officers are, basically, men of conscience and maybe the IDF is, at bottom line, a rather stabilizing and well-behaved element in comparison to other parts of Israeli society. Maybe if Eden Abergil of Facebook infamy is discharged, if some of the ultra-nationalist Hesder Yeshivas are disengaged from and a few other painful adjustments are made to the system, things could work out okay. This is – pretty much – the platform of the new “National Left” movement: Zionism is sick, but if it receives the right medication it will go back to being healthy and beautiful.
Anyone who thinks that is true is simply letting the army lie to them – or alternatively, is lying on behalf of the army. Not only is the perennial cheerleading for the military violent, aggressive, and vicious: it also simply does not hold water. It is mendacious and empty. The people who lead the Israeli army and steer the regime under which we live deserve no honor and are not motivated by any kind of value. These are not good people in the grasp of a tragic situation. They are merely a group of jerks.
One of the peak moments in the current attack of militarist schmaltz was the ”Israeli Idol”(local version of American Idol)) episode broadcast from the Haifa Navy base, by way of a tribute to the army. The kibbutz-wannabe contender, who looked as if he was some kind of paratrooper just returning from a mythic 1956 battle, sang the nationalist folk song, Eretz Eretz Eretz (“we were born here / we will live here / we will remain here despite everything”), and the judge, Dana International, said that this song “symbolized all that is beautiful in Eretz Israel”. It was a little embarrassing, because in that very same “beautiful Eretz Israel”, the one where people sang Eretz Eretz Eretz, Dana International (an out-of-closet transsexual woman) would not have been a TV entertainment judge but rather, she’d be institutionalized in some faraway place. What made Dana International possible, even in the concrete sense of physical possibility, is the disintegration of that same old Eretz Israel. Dana’s clinginess to the past and the entire evening were another expression of the emptiness of that militaristic sentimentalism in an ultra-capitalist society, where everyone longs for some kind of “values” which, in fact, no one really wants to live by. Even the leaders of the above-mentioned “National Left”, Shmulik Hasfiri and Eldad Yaniv are two Tel Aviv urbanites, not exactly the stuff of Palmach underground legends.
Military Leaders Embodying Values
If I could, I would teach Anshel Pfeffer’s article, Galant’s World: Friends in High Places, which ran in the Ha’aretz newspaper last week as an essential text. You could say that this column expressed everything that is sick about today’s Israel – without any settlers or ultra-orthodox Jews. Here’s a key extract::

Galant maintained links with prominent personalities he became acquainted with during his military career. The affair is now at the center of notes strategic consultants Eyal Arad and Lior Horev as close associates, and the leaked document in question bears their office logo. The two advisers, who were members of Sharon`s `farm forum,` knew Galant well from the time he served as Sharon`s military secretary. But both deny keeping in touch with him over the last two years.
Galant`s connection to Sharon began in the 1980s, when he commanded a platoon in the Shayetet, the IDF`s elite naval commando unit. There he became acquainted with Omri Sharon, Ariel Sharon`s son, who served as munitions officer in the Shaldag unit.
`We stayed in touch through the years,` Omri Sharon said yesterday, but denied any involvement in the events related to selecting the next chief of staff.
Other close friends of Galant`s include Yoni Koren, chief of staff for the defense minister; Chemi Peres, President Shimon Peres` youngest son, a former combat helicopter pilot and now one of the leading venture capital fund managers in Israel; and millionaire Benny Steinmetz, who is also Galant`s jogging partner.
Galant has stayed in touch with many Shayetet veterans as well, including news anchor Gadi Sukenik. Associates of the two men told Haaretz that Sukenik regularly advises Galant on media affairs.
Sukenik himself was more reserved about their relationship, however. `Calling me his media advisor would be an exaggeration,` he said.
And that’s just what a military correspondent publishes in the newspaper.
People need to be told: you’re being had. You have no cause to die for these people. It’s not just that they don’t care about the Palestinians. They don’t care about you, either. A war criminal officer, the friend of a son of an even bigger war criminal, who is himself a criminal; also a friend of a capital investor who is the son of the president, and of a billionaire who does dirty deals in Africa, and a journalist who MC’s reality shows that are almost every bit as dirty. That is the army, and that is Zionism in its 2010 model. - not some fantasy from a 1960’s nationalist song.
In the Israeli media, officers are portrayed as “salt of the earth” while the “post Zionist” anti-Occupation left is derided as a bunch of heartless cynics. The personal ethics and simple, good souls of the officers are supposed to constitute proof of their warrior’s ethics and noble intentions, too. But there is nothing “ethical” or “devoted” in the top echelons of the army. No matter which way you look at it, the officers contribute nothing to society. They are not altruists, and they are not working for a supreme goal. The least of the heroine snorters in the lusty dungeons of Tel Aviv is less decadent and nihilistic than they are.
There once was an ideology called Rabinism. In the late 90’s that was a resolute and optimistic world view, which held that all one had to do was vanquish “the forces of darkness” in Israeli society and march the state into a glorious era of happiness. The enemies, according to this world view, were the settlers, the Mizrahi fundamentalist Shas party, Sharon, and Netanyahu. I remember how in high school I had faith in Rabin in Peres, how I whispered that I would never forget or forgive Rabin’s 1995 assassination, and hated with a burning passion all the people who incited before that murder, then “walked behind the coffin”. That was a rather simple way of finding some sort of order in the world: Rabin was good, and the evil Likud regime which came into being before a full year passed after he was murdered was the absolute evil.
This construct began to show cracks when – on TV talk shows – Labor Party politicians palled around with the demonic monsters from the Likud. I was surprised they would even sit beside the people who wanted to kill them, who had actually killed their benevolent father, our benevolent father. I could only hang onto the Rabin family – a kind of Old Israel royal family which had a genetic kernel of real, just, righteous Zionism. But even this kernel was lost sometime in 2001, when Rabin’s daughter Dalia, elected into Knesset by the virtue of her last name, joined the Sharon government. Like Hamlet’s mother, she removed her mourning clothes and leapt lustfully into the usurper’s bed.
I understood that I had been had. That the bad guys and the good guys were all, in fact, in the same single boat. That “the warriors of light” did not believe in their own mission. That this was all because there had never been any ideology there. Rabinism is not actually a defensible position. It is nothing, in the best case; in the worst case, it is yet another industry that provides millionaires with the opportunity of meeting other millionaires.
That is also the problem with any attempt to dig through the layers of crap from Lieberman and Feiglin and salvage the kernel of some true Zionism. Because where is that kernel located? In Dan Halutz’s bank account? In Ehud Barak’s penthouse? In “General Chiney’s” (*) strip club? In Eyal Arad’s PR office? Maybe deep in Yigal Allon’s grave? Search where you will, you won’t find a salvageable kernel.
“Going back to Zionism” is not possible. There is, in fact, nowhere to go back to.

(*) “General Chiney” is the nickname for Israel’s Navy chief, who in 2009 was caught enjoying himself at a strip club. He was mildly reprimanded.]

-Translated by Dena Shunra,
-Note by Assaf Oron
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