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Exile and the prophetic: Gaza is world’s largest live military test site

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This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

‘Netanyahu’s Willing Executioners?’

No, I can’t go there.  Israel 2012 is not Germany 1942.  Not even close.  But that’s only the beginning of the story.

Analysts are reporting that the latest Gaza blow-up was a warm-up for the coming confrontation with Iran.  Among other things, Gaza was a test for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-rocket system financed by the United States.  At least for short-range missiles, Iron Dome was a success.  In a confrontation with Iran, Israel is protected against incoming missiles from Lebanon and Gaza. 

Iran poses another, longer-range missile threat.  In Gaza, Iran’s threat couldn’t be tested directly. However, information from the short-range missile defenses, plus simulation exercises with longer range missile possibilities, was gathered.  Iran was also testing – and adjusting – the missiles it supplies to Hamas. 

Gaza is usually referred to as the largest outdoor prison in the world.  Is it now the largest live military testing site?

You don’t have to read Michel Foucault to know prisons are power centers where vast experiments on the human condition are conducted.  Should we expect an outdoor prison to be any different?

In reading a New York Times article on this subject, I was amazed at how easy the experimentation on populations rolls off writers’ pens.  Like most Times articles, the writing is impeccable.   A complex issue is easily understood.  Immersed in the article, I thought – ‘Oh, this makes perfect sense.  Gaza as a run-up for Iran.’ 

Then I stepped back and wondered if the article would include one analyst who questioned the ethics of using a population for testing weapons.  Further, the population upon whom the weapons were tested was only a preparation for another larger conflict.  In turn, this future conflict would provide invaluable data for the next round of war.

Even a realist in the world of politics should be given pause by such an analysis.  That might be my naiveté.  Is it also the Times naiveté?

The moral indictment extends to us, the reader, who can read this kind of analysis and simply affirm its logical content.  Likewise, the moral indictment comes back to the parties involved, those who oppose Palestinian freedom and those who would do ‘anything’ for Palestinians to be free.  It isn’t moral to use Gaza as a missile testing site regardless of the side you’re on.

Trial runs.  It’s outrageous that a population – any population – is subject to this insanity.

Palestinians as collateral damage – yet another discourse that is so disgusting it hardly merits mentioning except that it seems so acceptable.   For God’s sake, how did the Times, how did the United States, how did Israel, how did mainstream Jewry, how did Iran, how did we, get there?

Perhaps the main task before Jews of Conscience is simply – and profoundly – to say, ‘No, there aren’t any trial run populations anywhere in the world and certainly not in our name in Palestine.’

Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His latest book is Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures.

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6 Responses

  1. OlegR on November 26, 2012, 11:43 am

    /erhaps the main task before Jews of Conscience /
    How about Iranians of Conscience ?

    • Egbert on November 26, 2012, 1:33 pm

      Iranian Jews have greater freedoms than Israeli Arabs. How does it feel to be worse than Iran?

      • LanceThruster on November 26, 2012, 3:55 pm

        This is so little known by the American public as it would conflict with the claim of Iranians (and their leadership) hating “Jews” as opposed to having legitmate issues with Zionism. While not perfect to be sure, there’s no reason to damn them for statements/practices that they are not guilty of.

      • piotr on November 26, 2012, 6:17 pm

        This is actually interesting example of Shiah fundamentalist mentality (this also holds for some but not all Sunni). To wit, clerics are primarily jurist, and they view religious laws, and even secular laws, very seriously. If Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians are “people of the book” that have to be tolerated with various provisions to enable their weird customs (like not using chadors or drinking alcohol). Heretics and apostate do not have such a licence and the record is mixed at best (Bahai’i are in that category).

        The point is that they go for considerable effort that “the West” does not appreciate at all to follow legal principles. For example, the “outrageous kidnapping of innocent Israeli soldiers” by Hezbollah happened on what is viewed in Lebanon as Lebanese territory. And of course Iran makes effort to follow the letter of international agreements on nuclear materials which “the West” cheerfully disregards. In a nutshell, the sum total of American views on international law is that what we do is always legal, as we have a veto on any action against us, and what others do is illegal if we do not like it. Within those broad outline we improvise as needed.

        As a result “the West” (USA and obedient allies) is perceived as utterly untrustworthy, which is OK if we want confrontation, but a real bother if we need to negotiate something. Moreover, our elite does not have any idea how such distrust could possibly emerge — how one can GENUINELY distrust America when we do not do anything illegal, ever! (Of course, Israel never does anything illegal either, for the same reason.)

  2. PauldeRooij on November 26, 2012, 5:50 pm

    Maybe another justification that merits the same condemnation, and is also morally repugnant, is to launch the massacre (it isnt a war) for electoral purposes.

  3. Avi_G. on November 26, 2012, 11:51 pm


    Did they tell you the purpose of all this?

    To locate weapons. But we didn’t find any weapons. They confiscated kitchen knives. There was also stealing. One guy took twenty shekels. Guys went into the houses and looked for things to steal. This was a very poor village. The guys were saying, “What a bummer, there’s nothing to steal.”

    That was said in a conversation among the soldiers?

    Yeah. They enjoyed seeing the misery, the guys were happy talking about it. There was a moment someone yelled at the soldiers. They knew he was mentally ill, but one of the soldiers decided that he’d beat him up anyway, so they smashed him. They hit him in the head with the butt of the gun, he was bleeding, then they brought him to the school along with everyone else. There were a pile of arrest orders signed by the battalion commander, ready, with one area left blank. They’d fill in that the person was detained on suspicion of disturbing the peace. They just filled in the name and the reason for arrest. There were people with plastic handcuffs that had been put on really tight. I got to speak with the people there. One of them had been brought into Israel to work for a settler and after two months the guy didn’t pay him and handed him over to the police.


    Anything else you remember from that night?

    A small thing, but it bothered me — one house that they just destroyed. They have a dog for weapons searches, but they didn’t bring him; they just wrecked the house. The mother watched from the side and cried. Her kids sat with her and stroked her.

    What do you mean, they just destroyed the house?

    They smashed the floors, turned over sofas, threw plants and pictures, turned over beds, smashed the closets, the tiles. There were other things — the look on the people’s faces when you go into their house. And after all that, they were left tied up and blindfolded in the school for hours. The order came to free them at four in the afternoon. So that was more than twelve hours. There were investigators from the security services there who interrogated them one by one.

    Had there been a terrorist attack in the area?

    No. We didn’t even find any weapons. The brigade commander claimed that the Shin Bet did find some intelligence, that there were a lot of guys there who throw stones.

    Elimination Operation

    It all took about a second and a half. And then they took out the bodies, carried the bodies. We went to a debriefing. I’ll never forget when they brought the bodies out at the base. We were standing two meters away in a semicircle, the bodies were covered in flies, and we had the debriefing. It was, “Great job, a success. Someone shot the wrong car, and we’ll talk about the rest back on the base.” I was in total shock from all the bullets, from the crazy noise. We saw it on the video, it was all documented on video for the debriefing. I saw all the things that I told you, the people running, the minute of gunfire, I don’t know if it’s twenty seconds or a minute, but it was hundreds of bullets and it was clear that the people had been killed, but the gunfire went on and the soldiers were running from the armored truck. What I saw was a bunch of bloodthirsty guys firing an insane amount of bullets, and at the wrong car, too. The video was just awful, and then the unit commander got up. I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot from him.

    What do you mean?

    That he’ll be a regional commanding officer or the chief of staff one day. He said, “The operation wasn’t carried out perfectly, but the mission was accomplished, and we got calls from the chief of staff, the defense minister, the prime minister” — everyone was happy, it’s good for the unit, and the operation was like, you know, just: “Great job.” The debriefing was just a cover-up.


    But the Shin Bet agents were as happy as kids at a summer camp.

    What does that mean?

    They were high-fiving and hugging. Really pleased with themselves. They didn’t join in the debriefing, it was of no interest to them. But what was the politics of the operation? How come my commanders, not one of them, admitted that the operation had failed?

    Shoot to Kill

    They actually shot people?

    They shot anyone walking around in the street. It always ended with, “We killed six terrorists today.” Whoever you shot in the street is “a terrorist.”

    That’s what they say at the briefings?

    The goal is to kill terrorists.

    What are the rules of engagement?

    Whoever’s walking around at night, shoot to kill.

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