23 May 2013
Binyamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, travelled to Russia to meet
with President Putin in order to convince him not to sell ground-to-air S-300
missiles, which are effective, accurate and reach a high altitude, to Syria.
Netanyahu would not bothered with this meeting if he had not been told by
commanders of the Israeli air force that these missiles will end the absolute
air superiority that Israel enjoys today. In other words, the end of the
Israeli air force’s freedom to bomb Syrian facilities or weapons convoys with
no danger that planes will be shot down or pilots captured.
To judge by the official statements by the Russian government, Netanyahu’s
mission failed. The Russian foreign minister announced that Russia had signed
contracts to supply Syria and will honour its commitments. This is a hoot.
What stands behind the Russian position is not commercial fairness and respect
for contracts, but the continuation of the Soviet position of supporting the
Assad family regime, which provides Russia with its only remaining naval base
in the Middle East.
It is of course regrettable that Russia, like its predecessor the Soviet
Union, supports a tyrannical regime that slaughters its people, but that is
the nature of imperialism: allies can be corrupt and cruel, just as long as
they serve imperial interests. Just as the Russians support Syria, the
Americans support the Saudi government. And Israel’s mini-imperialism is no
different in nature. Its history is marked by glorious friends like the
generals Idi Amin of Uganda and Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire (now the Democratic
Republic of Congo), Augusto Pinochet of Chile … the list is long.
Israel is the last one entitled to preach morality to arms exporters, for
Israel has a major exporter of arms – including weapons of mass destruction -
to every leper and pariah. Once, in the distant past, the symbol of Israeli
exports was the orange. Today Israel stars in international arms fairs where
it proudly showcases its achievements in the field of military production and
signs deals worth billions. The export of military supplies is devoid of any
humanistic or democratic values. It rests on two pillars: the maintenance of
corrupt regimes and financial profit. The State of Israel today stands at the
head of the dealers in death.
The civil war in Syria is a focus for disagreement between Russia and the US.
The former supports Assad and the latter supports his opponents. Moscow warns
Washington not to intervene. Some will hear echoes from the days of the Cold
War between the Soviet Union and the United States. Israel is part of the
puzzle. The military correspondent for state television, who is an agent of
the IDF Spokesman’s office, reported that Israel transferred a message through
covert channels to Russia that it cannot tolerate the transfer of 300S
missiles to Assad. In other words, Israel will bomb the missiles as soon as
they are unloaded at a seaport or an airport. If that is true, and we must
assume that the correspondent did not invent the words, then the maniacs in
Israel are risking an armed conflict with Russia. Time to prepare the bunkers.
At the same time Israel is warning Assad that if he responds to Israel’s
bombing of Syria, Israel will act to bring down his regime. Israel’s leaders
have not learned the lesson of a similar attempt in the past. In the First
Lebanon War, Israel initiated the “election” of Bashir Gemayel as a president
who would effectively be an Israeli puppet. The Begin-Sharon government stood
behind the deranged initiative that got Israel mired in the Lebanese mud for
18 years. Blood flowed like water, and that fiasco, which was so expensive in
blood and money, ended with Israel’s ignominious retreat. Lebanon went from
being expected to be the first Arab state to make peace with Israel to being
the Arab state most hostile to Israel. An attempt to repeat the experience in
Syria is liable to end up being equally disastrous.
The murderer from Beersheba
The multiple murder at the Bank Hapoalim in Beersheba (20 May 2013) – four
killed and five wounded – is a distillation of everything that is ugly about
Israeli society: contempt for human life, swinish capitalism and racism.
The murderer could have been defined as a normative Israel: a 39-year-old
bachelor, who could not possibly have been expected to commit such a
slaughter. Above all: his name – Itamar Alon, is an Israeli Jewish name, of
the type that you would never find among Jews living outside Israel. Before
the murder he was considered to be one of what are called around here “the
best of our youth”. He joined the Occupation army, attained the rank of major
and later attained a position of responsibility for security in the Beersheba
municipality. He completed with distinction a course in practical engineering
at a college in Beersheba.
Above all else, he distinguished himself in the military training courses
where he learned how to kill human beings, usually Arabs. That’s no problem in
Israel; we are prepared for it from kindergarten all the way up to our
enlistment in the army. The picture is completed in the army by means of
systematic instruction in how to be a licenced murderer. The crowning glory of
Alon’s life took place 10 years ago when a fighter in the Palestinian
rebellion set out to strike a blow against the occupying state. Itamar Alon,
who happened to be at the scene, “stormed” him, as we say around here to
emphasize that a violent act is praiseworthy, and killed him. For that he
received a citation from the mayor of Beersheba and the commander of the
Israel Police Southern District, who is now the Minister of Public Security.
Those who hand out medals for killing people should not be astonished when
that cheapening of human life overflows into our streets and homes. What
starts with Arabs ends up hitting Jews like a boomerang.
In recent years Itamar Alon was afflicted with economic hardship. Unable to
get a job, he lived with his aged parents, and the only income he had was
unemployment insurance – not enough to live and too much to die. On the day of
the murder he went to the bank to withdraw money, and the ATM swallowed his
card. He approached the manager of the branch and demanded his card, and in my
imagination I can hear the following conversation between them:
“Give me my card.”
Avner Cohen (the manager): “Impossible, you owe 6,000 shekels.”
Itamar: “Let me pay the debt in instalments.”
Avner: “I’m not authorized; it’s against regulations.”
Burning with rage, Itamar Alon went home. In those moments he may very well
have been thinking of Shari Arison’s billions and Bank Hapoalim CEO Zion
Kenan’s millions. If their incomes were cut by 6,000 shekels they wouldn’t
even notice. He may have been thinking of the stories about the tycoons who
got into difficulties and the banks forgave them hundreds of millions of
shekels. But when it came to his own measly debt of 6,000 shekels, the rules
are sacred. This is a recipe for an explosion: on the one hand, he is a hero
by Israeli standards: he has letters of citation for killing someone; on the
other hand, he is in economic distress, without a penny to his name, and the
bank took the little he had. When these two components combine with a
borderline personality disorder, a tsunami may swell up as the hand reaches
for the gun.
The four people he killed were innocent victims of rage that measured 10 on
the Richter scale. If the murderer had exercised a little rational thought, he
could have seen that the branch manager Avner Cohen was at the bottom of the
chain of command. The scoundrels are higher up – and even they should not be
killed, but removed through nationalization, after which they will pay
compensation for having robbed the public for years. There is money for that.
Itamar Alon could have been an ally in that struggle, if his mind had not
And of course, there is the accursed racism. One of the wounded was the
citizen Omar Walid, a Bedouin resident of the Negev. The police who arrived on
the scene acted according to the antisemitic stereotype that any Arab in the
area must be a party to the crime. Not only did the murderer shoot him, but
the police too shot him and he was gravely wounded. The police dragged him out
like a sack of potatoes, where he was handcuffed even though he was
unconscious. They took him to the hospital that way. It is nearly superfluous
to say that none of the wounded Jews was handcuffed.
And I almost forgot this important point: the Public Security Minister and the
Police Commissioner expressed satisfaction with the police handling of the
On the morning of 30 September 2000, Jamal al-Dura and his 12 year old son
Muhammad left their home in the al-Bureij refugee camp on their way to the
Gaza market to buy a car. On their way back, they came to a place that was
called in the language of the Occupation “Netzarim Junction”, where they got
caught in an exchange of fire between Palestinian fighters and the Israeli
Occupation army. The father and son found shelter behind a concrete barrel
next to a brick wall. The incident was filmed by a French news channel. That
evening images of Jamal and his son in the line of fire were broadcast all
over the world, the father hunched over his son and imploring the shooters to
stop with shouts and gestures. The gunfight did not stop and Muhammad was
killed in his father’s arms by the Occupation army’s fire.
Muhammad al-Dura became a symbol of the Palestinian uprising, the boy the
Israeli occupier refused to allow to be rescued.
At first the army chiefs admitted that Muhammad was “apparently” killed by the
Occupation army. But with the passage of the years all kinds of smart-alecks
came along and claimed that they had examined the angles of fire and found
that Muhammad could not have been killed by Israeli fire, and maybe he wasn’t
even killed at all, and is living today under an assumed identity somewhere.
The army chiefs began to warm to these crazy theories and got swept up in
their appeal. The result: in September 2012 (12 years after the incident),
Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered his Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe
Yaalon to set up a team to look into the Muhammad al-Dura affair. The team was
headed by Brigadier General (Res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, the director of Yaalon’s
department. And – surprise, surprise: this month the team submitted its
findings, and they have adopted the supposedly patriotic version, according to
which the boy was not killed at all, and if he was, not by the Israeli army.
The whole team is one big joke. Kuperwasser, a collaborator with a right-wing
judicial organization the main mission of which is to extort money from the
Palestinians, is not suitable to head such an inquiry. This is yet another
example of Israeli retroactive sanitization of history. They put the fox in
charge of the henhouse.
Jamal’s reply was most praiseworthy: he is willing to have his son’s body
exhumed, on condition that the whole matter be investigated by an independent
international body. Israel does not accept this.
To me the truth is clear, and there is no need for investigation. The exchange
of fire that killed Muhammad occurred as a consequence of the Occupation.
Muhammad al-Dura is thus a victim of the Occupation, and Israel therefore
bears responsibility for his death, regardless of which direction the bullets
came from. The findings of the Israeli investigation team belong in the
Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent