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Red Rag Weekly Column
Gideon Spiro
Red Rag weekly column
28 June 2011 (English translation 4 July 2011)

Licenced to kill

A few days ago the newspaper Haaretz ran a story about the death of Dr. Yonah Elian, a retired doctor who had worked as an anaesthesiologist at the government hospital in Tel Hashomer. Why did the doctor�s death rate a news story? Because it turns out that alongside his medical activities he served as a doctor in Mossad operations in the 1950s and 1960s. It was he who anaesthetized Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires in 1960 before he was put on the plane in which he was whisked from Argentina to Israel.

Not all the Mossad�s actions enjoy as much prestige and consensus support as the abduction of Eichmann. Most if not all of the Mossad�s actions in which a doctor participated were located in the zone between the grey area and the black area. That is, they are always illegal under the laws of the countries in which they are carried out, and sometimes also immoral, to say nothing of the times when they have been clearly within the realm of criminal transgressions.

One such incident was reported in the story about the death of Dr. Elian. In 1954 an air force officer, Captain Alexander (Avner) Israel, an engineer, came under suspicion of having offered his services to an Egyptian embassy in Europe. A unit of Mossad operatives, headed by Rafi Eitan, went to Europe to kidnap him. He was caught in France. The man was put into a box and transferred onto an air force Dakota aircraft that was sent to Paris especially for that purpose.

Dr. Elian injected the officer with an overdose of anaesthetic and he died. His body was thrown out of the airplane into the sea. In less diplomatic terms: an air force officer, completely innocent of any crime, who had not even been put on trial and certainly had not been convicted, was murdered by his kidnappers, who were employees of the state. No one was put on trial. It is clear that it was an illegal, criminal action of a state that acts like the Mafia. Rafi Eitan characterized the operation as �embarrassing�. That is what he had to say on the subject. The head of the Mossad at the time, Isser Harel, did not report to the family what had happened. I assume that the armed forces invented some lie and reported it to the family, maybe something cynical like �he fell in the line of duty and his burial place is not known.�

Among other things, that incident raises the issue of doctors agreeing to cooperate with covert services and carry out medical procedures that are counter to the code of medical ethics. The duty of a doctor is to take care of patients and heal them, not to anaesthetize innocents so they can be kidnapped. Based on the principles of human rights as I see them, Dr. Elian should have refused to be part of the kidnapping team. To my dismay the subject is still a relevant one even today, in view of the fact that all too many doctors are willing to collaborate with the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) in acts of torture.

The story of the kidnapping and execution/murder of Captain Alexander Israel was not known to me. I assume that most readers of Haaretz or most Members of the Knesset did not know it either. I would have thought that the subject was worth discussing in the Knesset, but there is no righteous person who is willing to do it. As Jabotinsky said, �silence is filth.�

I am trying, with the feeble power at my disposal, to break the silence.

Five years of Gilad Shalit�s captivity

The Shalit family has recently marked the fifth anniversary of Gilad Shalit�s captivity by Hamas. For a year now the family has been sitting in a protest tent near the prime minister�s residence in Jerusalem, in the hope of pressuring the prime minister to accept the prisoner exchange deal that is being demanded by Hamas. Netanyahu, who has shown that he is often responsive to pressure, is exhibiting unusual firmness in this particular case. In his view, as in that of his predecessor Olmert, it is better for an Israeli soldier to be imprisoned by the enemy for many more years rather than to release the 450 prisoners on the list that Hamas has submitted.

It is hard for us to understand that those who are terrorists in the eyes of the Israeli regime are freedom fighters in the eyes of the other side, just as members of the Irgun and Lehi were terrorists in the eyes of the British occupiers, but fighters for the freedom of Israel [1] in the eyes of the leaders of the Jewish underground organizations and today�s right-wing government.

The Shalit family has taken care not to transgress the boundaries of the consensus. Consequently they enjoy broad public support, including from people of renown from various sectors of the population, but there is a price to be paid: the struggle is impotent, lacking in leverage to apply substantial pressure. The struggle involves many gimmicks, such as the latest one of building a detention cell that is supposed to look like the cell in which Gilad is being held, according to the popular belief. All kinds of celebrities have volunteered to sit for an hour in the room as a sign of solidarity. It�s no skin off Netanyahu�s nose.

Is Gilad sitting in a damp cell, or does he perhaps enjoy conditions of detention that are even better than those of Hamas prisoners in Israel? We will know only when the exchange is carried out.

When I visited Gaza with an international humanitarian delegation, I asked to meet with Gilad and I was told it was impossible. As I reported at the time in my memoir of the visit,

When I returned from Gaza I talked with Noam Shalit, Gilad�s father, and I suggested that he step up the struggle by calling for mass refusal to enlist in the army. If thousands of conscripted youths were to refuse to enlist as long as Israel does not carry out a prisoner exchange, Gilad would soon be home. Not only did the Shalit family not agree, but Gilad�s sister enlisted and is now serving in the army that has abandoned her brother, and as a soldier she is barred from demonstrating for his release. Systemic insanity. I fear, and I hope I will be proven wrong, that if things continue the way they are going now, Gilad will eventually mark his tenth year in captivity.

Scaring the people

Not long ago the biggest home-front exercise ever conducted in Israel concluded. The exercise simulated the firing of thousands of missiles at the centres of Israeli cities. The home front minister, General Matan Vilnai, scared the public with lurid scenarios about the next war, in which chemical, biological and maybe even nuclear missiles will fall on Israel. The government convened for the first time in the new bunker in the mountains of Jerusalem that was built for it at the cost of billions of shekels, and which supposedly can withstand nuclear, biological and chemical attacks. In my view it was a superfluous expense that would have been better invested for peaceful purposes. That bunker is likely to enhance the reckless tendencies of Lieberman-Netanyahu-Barak-style governments and their friends in the delusional Right, due to their feeling that they and their families will be able to survive a nuclear war in the new bunker.

Who wants to live in a state where that is the future the leaders have in mind for the citizenry? There is no doubt that the dreadful scenarios invoked by the leaders of the State have only increased the numbers of emigrants who are seeking places that are a little saner.


Next November in San Francisco a referendum will be held about circumcision. A group of citizens is proposing to ban the circumcision of babies, on the grounds that the operation is barbaric and it causes the mutilation of those who cannot resist. Those who want to get circumcised can do it at age 18, when they are adults who can made informed decisions about their bodies.

If I were a resident of San Francisco I would support the proposal. In my opinion ritual circumcision is a barbaric ceremony, in which parents have their son mutilated at the age of 8 days. He has no capacity to resist, and all he can do is sob heartrendingly from the pain he feels. The ceremony also involves other unacceptable components, such as the ritual circumciser�s act of sucking blood from the baby�s penis with his mouth.

And what is particularly absurd about this whole business is that it is done in the name of a covenant with God. The very people who claim that Man is the crown of creation, made by God�s hands, do not accept men as they are born, but insist on mutilating them, all in the name of God, who, like the baby, cannot resist. For if God were indeed merciful and compassionate and omnipotent, as the believers say in their prayers, He certainly would impose a veto on this whole ceremony that is done in His name.

In the domain of religious belief, decisions can be reversed. A person can convert from religion to religion, or decide to be an atheist. Not so with circumcision. It is irreversible and therefore it is only correct and just to leave such a fateful decision to the man himself. And moreover, a man�s religion, be it Judaism or Islam, is not conferred on him by circumcision (except for converts � but they are adults).

The time has come to repudiate male infant circumcision just as emphatically as we have repudiated female circumcision.

Translator�s note

1. The name of the right-wing underground organization Lehi, which fought the British in the 1940s, is an acronym for the Hebrew words �Fighters for the Freedom of Israel� (Lohamei Herut Yisra�el).

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent

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