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Red Rag column
By: Gideon Spiro
22 August 2010 (English translation posted 25 August)

Caution, sharp right turn

The American Senator Joseph McCarthy, after whom the phenomenon of McCarthyism is unflatteringly named, could never have imagined that 53 years after his death, his grim legacy would flourish in the “Jewish and democratic” state. Just as McCarthy’s fevered imagination saw communists in every corner who were endangering the government and preparing to take control over the USA, today’s Israel full of right-wingers who see anti-Zionists everywhere, who will bring about the annihilation of Israel.

A group that calls itself “Im tirtzu,” [1] which enjoys generous financial support to the tune of hundreds of thousands of shekels from a pro-Israeli neo-Nazi Christian organization led by the Reverend John Hagee (who claimed that the Nazis were God’s will, that Hitler was half-Jewish, that the Holocaust happened because the Jews rejected the real god and other such pearls), as reported in the economic supplement of the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot, “Kalkalist,” in the electronic edition of 18 August 2010, and another group known as the “Institute for Zionist Strategy” (it too supported by extreme right-wing financiers from the US), has launched a campaign of intimidation and witch-hunting against Israeli universities, which according to them are a nest of anti- and post-Zionist vipers.

“Im tirtzu” gave an ultimatum to the president of Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba, that if within 30 days there was no change in the composition of the lecturers in the political science department (which in practical terms means the dismissal of lecturers who are considered “anti-Zionist” and their replacement with Zionists), they would call upon foreign donors to stop making donations.

The Institute for Zionist Strategy submitted a complaint to the Higher Education Council to the effect that the teaching material used in the sociology departments in most Israeli universities is characterized by “the exclusion of Zionism.” The president of Tel Aviv University panicked and asked the head of the department to show him the teaching material.

These two organizations are not operating in a void. The right-wing majority in the Knesset and the government, including the Education Minister, gives them moral support. The Israeli Right combines McCarthyism with Soviet Zhdanovism. Zhdanov was responsible for the cultural life of the Soviet Union. He ensured that humanities and social studies that diverged from the party line would not be taught in the universities. Meanwhile the heads of Israeli universities have regained their composure and issued statements against this brutal attempt to dictate teaching materials to the universities.

For my part, I wish that the “accusations” of the right were true. I wish that the universities in Israel were bastions of critical thought, of casting doubt on the consensus, of seeing things in a way that differs from the conventional wisdom, of pure humanism that produces Occupation-refusers. But reality proves that most Israeli students toe the line, enlist in the army and serve the Occupation. The student councils belong to the establishment parties, usually from the centre rightwards. Among the academic faculty the picture is not essentially any different. Apart from a small number of lecturers who do not toe the line, the overwhelming majority of lecturers and university administrators in Israel are members of the Establishment. They do not rebel against the State, but are integrated into it.

There is no shortage of examples: for example, a substantial proportion of the researchers in the institutes for national security that have been established in the universities are army officers or former ISA (Shin Bet) or Mossad agents who continue in the Academy what they did in their military or intelligence careers: serving the security establishment and preparing for war.

The hundreds of thousands of graduates that the Israeli Academy has produced in the 43 years of the Occupation must fill the Israeli Right with satisfaction. They have become well-integrated into the Israeli Establishment, the government, the local authorities, the economy and of course also in the monster of Israeli Security. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, psychologists, physicists, philosophers, political scientists and others, all of them can be found serving the racist regime in the Occupied Territories with varying degrees of dedication. A minority of them have found their way to the human rights organizations. As in the universities, so outside them. And let us not forget, the universities have created a special program for the military: an abbreviated degree course for the “heroic soldiers.”

The extreme Right-wing groups are not content with those achievements. Instead of 80 per cent success they want 100 per cent. Even McCarthy and Zhdanov did not manage to achieve that. And it is likely that some university or other will toss a bone to the extreme Right by dismissing some untenured faculty member whose forehead is emblazoned with the mark of “post-Zionism;” but in the bigger scheme of things, I think, the Israeli academic establishment has an interest in maintaining a controlled number of challengers of the consensus. Among other things, that is a ticket of admission to the international academic salon. No university or college would give up such an asset.

This is our country

Eden Aberjil completed her army service a year ago. She uploaded onto her Facebook account pictures of herself, smiling, with bound and blindfolded Palestinians in the background. The photos were taken in a military facility in the south. I imagine that the Palestinians were not what are called in Israel “terrorists,” but Palestinians who were maybe abducted from Gaza, or maybe job-seekers who wanted to earn some bread for their families. Eden wrote that the pictures reminded her of the happiest time in her life. The pictures were published by international media outlets, some of which made comparisons with the photos of the female American soldier Lynndie England against the background of the humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The international publicity was not flattering to Israel and provoked an outcry. Eden received wall-to-wall condemnation. The critical response angered Eden Aberjil very much. She did not understand what the fuss was all about. She added, in a supplementary section, “there are no laws in war. I hate Arabs. I would gladly kill Arabs, even slaughter them.” Just so there’s no misunderstanding.

The IDF spokesman issued a press release stating that the pictures “do not represent the values of the IDF.” That is a hypocritical and mendacious announcement. Eden Aberjil represents the values of the IDF. That is what the army has been doing for more than 40 years in the Occupied Territories: arresting, oppressing, killing and humiliating Palestinians. Eden Aberjil grew up with those values, and this is the result. Her pictures are not the worst ones. The “Breaking the Silence” organization has published souvenir photos taken by soldiers with the bodies of Palestinians they had killed. Just for fun, so they can have something to show their children and grandchildren.

Around the time that Eden Aberjil’s photos were published, it was reported in the press that an officer and several soldiers were arrested for plundering the property of passengers on the Turkish flotilla to Gaza. Soldiers stole laptops and sold them. Others went enjoyed a shopping spree with the credit cards of flotilla passengers.

Here too the IDF Spokesman replied that it was counter to the values of the army. Again there is the pretense that this is a moral army with a few bad apples. Not true. An army whose soldiers were educated to treat Palestinian property with contempt and malice will also treat the property of the flotilla passengers accordingly. Was it not enough that the army raided a ship in the open sea, killed and wounded dozens and towed them to Ashdod, that they also had to confiscate the computers of journalists, writers and peace activists, as well as their credit cards? Those are the values of the Occupation army.

And as we are struggling to come to terms with the plunder of the flotilla passengers’ property, we learn from the newspaper Haaretz (20 August 2010) about a survey conducted by the company that is building the light rail line in Jerusalem, one of the questions in which was: would you object to riding with Arabs? Like Eden Aberjil, the company does not understand what all the fuss is about. Immediately it takes refuge behind the pretext of security, which serves as cover for every idiocy, injustice and crime.

Three stories in one: the ugly face of the State.

People are the same everywhere

More than once I have written about the process of the sanitization of the Hebrew language as a result of the Occupation. Judea and Samaria instead of the Occupied Territories, rioters instead of demonstrators, defence army instead of Occupation army, terrorists instead of Lehep (Fighters for the Freedom of Palestine). [2] A tiny sample from hundreds of examples.

The Israeli Occupation army did not invent sanitized language. It is ingrained in every army, especially armies that are involved in occupation and oppression. I recently saw the fifth instalment of the excellent series “Apocalypse,” about the Second World War. (Channel One)

Among other things, the instalment discusses the surrender of the German Generalfeldmarschall Paulus, the commander of the Sixth Army, with a hundred thousand of his soldiers in the battle of Stalingrad.

Hitler immediately issued an order to ban the word “surrender” and to replace it with “self-sacrifice.” The sanitization process is alive and well and passing from generation one generation of occupation to another.

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent

Translator’s notes

1. A reference to a quote from the founder of modern political Zionism, Theodor Herzl, who said “im tirzu, ein zo agada,” which is usually translated as, “If you will it, it is no dream.”

2. An allusion to the right-wing extremist pre-State Jewish militia and terrorist organization called Lehi, which was an acronym for “Lohamei herut yisra’el” – Fighters for the Freedom of Israel. Lehi carried out two high-profile assassinations: of the British minister Lord Moyne in Cairo in 1944, and United Nations mediator Count Folke Bernadotte in 1948. One of its leaders was Yitzhak Shamir, who later served two terms as prime minister of Israel in the 1980s and 1990s.

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