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Fabricated martyrdom?

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Richard Silverstein

Richard Silverstein

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

The Holy Land is a strange place to live and to worship. Anyone who has studied the history of the Holy Land or lived there knows its twists and turns of politics and faith are the stuff of legend. Which is part of the problem.

Just the monotheistic religions are enough to insure the Holy Land’s importance and conflictive contribution to the world’s landscape. Is there another city like Jerusalem, one that has contributed so much justice, love and violence to our global patrimony?

The Holy Land is a gift that keeps on giving. Like an endowment of sorts, the interest on the principle is more than lose change.

Like the notion of a Palestinian state that doesn’t resemble any state in existence.

Or the on and off ceasefire in the Gaza war. It seems that Israel wants the ability to keep its military working overtime destroying tunnels and other aspects of Palestinian life while the Palestinians lay down their arms and promise quiet on Israel’s border.

Like the Palestinian state, this ceasefire doesn’t resemble any that I know of.

Now word is that the Israeli soldier captured in Gaza might have been killed – with his Palestinian captors – by the Israeli military. Evidently a principle in Israel’s army is that no Jewish life is to be found among Palestinians, even a prisoner of war. The exceptions, at least for the time being, are settlers in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

This is how Richard Silverstein tells the story:

I’ve devoted a good deal of my life to Israel. I’ve studied, read, visited, lived, breathed it. Not in the way diehard pro-Israel fanatics do. But in a different way that matched my own intellectual and political proclivities. It’s a subject that is rich, varied, troubling, bedeviling, and exhilarating. But every once in a while I learn something I never thought possible; and I don’t mean this in a good way.

Tonight, my Israeli source informed me that Sgt. Guy Levy, serving in the armored corps, was captured by Hamas fighters. He had been part of a joint engineering-armored-combat unit searching for tunnels. Troops entered a structure and discovered a tunnel. Suddenly, out of the shaft sprang two militants who dragged one of the soldiers into it. By return fire, one of the Palestinians was killed, while the other fled, presumably with the soldier.

This Israeli report, which was censored by the IDF, says only that the attempt to capture the soldier failed. It says nothing about his fate. The expectation of anyone reading it would be that the soldier was freed. But he was not. In order to prevent the success of the operation, the IDF killed him. Nana reports that the IDF fired a tank shell into the building, which is the same way another captured soldier was killed by the IDF during Cast Lead.

I can’t verify this report, though it certainly rings true. Individual sacrifice for the collective, like the history of the Holy Land, has its own interesting history. Jews are raised with a history of martyrdom. Palestinians are experiencing martyrdom en masse today. But martyrdom for the Jewish state? If it is indeed martyrdom. Or is Levy’s death – along with other Israeli military deaths – sacrifice for a certain political sensibility within Israel?

Some would say that Israeli soldiers who die for the Jewish state are martyrs – on behalf of the Jewish people. With so many Jews of Conscience testifying against such a notion, it is difficult to raise these deaths to that level.

Indeed, Jews of Conscience are trying to save Palestinians – and Jews – from such a fate.

Are these Israeli deaths in vain? Even after the various ceasefires, Gaza will remain. Palestinian resistance isn’t going away.

Is their martyrdom fabricated? Like the Israeli invasion of the West Bank trying to “save” the kidnapped teenagers was fabricated? The government knew the teens were dead. The government also knows how many Israelis will die in Gaza.

Martyrs that aren’t martyrs. This, too, has a long history.

Even the question of who “our” martyrs are is becoming more and more difficult to discern. Are the Israeli soldiers who die “our” martyrs? Or, in one of the great reversals in Jewish history, are the Palestinian martyrs somehow, also, “our” own?

Marc H. Ellis
About 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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18 Responses

  1. a blah chick
    a blah chick on July 27, 2014, 11:56 am

    There was a time (long ago) when I wouldn’t have believed stories about them killing their own troops, not anymore. One has only to look at the lies they told the parents of the kidnapped hitchhikers to see how cruel they can be. What never gets talked about is how the elites there are willing to sacrifice Jewish lives in order to stay in power.

    There’s plenty that the Israeli public is not being told, such as exactly how many troops have been killed. The government is “clearing” these deaths as slowly as possible in order to minimize their impact. I’m still waiting to hear about this female soldier who was apparently captured two days ago. Still if anyone there wanted to know the truth they have only to get on the internet. There is no way anyone there can claim that they didn’t know.

    • Pixel
      Pixel on July 27, 2014, 9:21 pm

      “There was a time (long ago) when I wouldn’t have believed stories about them killing their own troops, not anymore.”

      … then the White Rabbit said to Alice, “Hold onto your hat, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

    • DaBakr
      DaBakr on July 27, 2014, 9:58 pm

      oh really… and what are they doing with the bodies? hiding them? the idk reports every death where a body can be picked up and/or DNA evidence can be confirmed as a death. The soldiers funerals are public and they try and bury them within the 24hr time frame. SO what exactly is your great source for the IDK lying about troop deaths? Are you one of those ‘chicks’ that can’t accept the fact that the IDK death toll is much lower then that of Hamas? And btw-who is reporting on Hamas militant deaths since its leadership announced that “ALL deaths should be described as civilian”? You think IDK must be lying because it can’t possibly be true? Israel does not owe the world or the Palestinians a certain amount of deaths to assuage any concerns that war is not a sporting event and is not fair and not simply a tit-for-tat contest of wills. The goal is to END the war.

      • Mooser
        Mooser on July 28, 2014, 12:54 pm

        “The goal is to END the war.”

        There’s a “war”? When did Israel declare war? On who? You are always saying Mondo isn’t giving both sides of the story, so please, tell us about the “war”.

        I see an extremely disproportionate incursion and atrocity by Israel. I don’t see any war.

  2. bilal a
    bilal a on July 27, 2014, 12:56 pm

    “The women there girded their loins with strength and slew their sons and their daughters and then themselves. Many men, too, plucked up courage and killed their wives, their sons, their infants. The tender and delicate mother slaughtered the babe she had played with, all of them, men and women arose and slaughtered one another. The maidens and the young brides and grooms looked out of the Windows and in a loud voice cried: “Look and see, O our God, what w e do for the sanctification of Thy great name in order not to exchange you for a hanged and crucified one….”

    Medieval Sourcebook: Soloman bar Samson:
    The Crusaders in Mainz, May 27, 1096

  3. OlegR
    OlegR on July 27, 2014, 3:55 pm

    Big whooptey doo , “expert” my tukhes.

    This is standard operating procedure which every grunt is aware of.
    Attempts to capture soldiers are to be foiled by any means necessary.

    • DaBakr
      DaBakr on July 28, 2014, 11:03 am

      while we probably don’t agree on much -this was exactly my point. But you said it in many less words.

      • Mooser
        Mooser on July 29, 2014, 3:08 am

        Oh look, the IDF Generals, General OlegR and General DaBakr, the military experts, are in the house, and handing out judgements. Everybody salute!

  4. justicewillprevail
    justicewillprevail on July 27, 2014, 6:22 pm

    I wonder what Gilad Shalit makes of this, and if he wonders if they might have tried to kill him too, had they the opportunity? So it is better to kill Jewish soldiers than let them be captured and eventually released after negotiations and the release of prisoners? A coldly, inhuman calculation – Jewish soldiers will be killed for political reasons. Ask any relative what they think about that.
    The apparent exploitation of the three Israeli teenagers’ bodies is also less shocking in this context, although its gruesome horror only highlights the corrupted mindset of the israeli establishment.

    • DaBakr
      DaBakr on July 28, 2014, 11:20 am

      Shalit is looked upon in Israel as a legitimate victim of torture and a survivor of enemy capture. And what he “feels” he knows better then to publicly comment now-during active war time. It is also completely cruel to expect one who survived 5 years of torture to speculate on wether a quick death or even violent but quick rescue would have been preferrable to 5 years of torture-now that he is alive and safe.
      As to who is much more extremely frowned upon are his two parents who [were then] coöpted [by] the far-left in Israel which then pushed beyond reasonabl;e boundaries to release the 1000 prisoners -some that had blood on their hands which in turn-when released-returned to committing acts of violence against Israeli civilians therefore exposing the ‘exchange’ as the sham that it always was. And as for chutzpah? After twisting the reluctant Netanyahu’s arm into agreeing to the 1000 to 1 exchange who was it who turned on him saying “Who told you to release murderers?” . Non other then the far-left [like Gideon Levy] along with Shalits parents. For their own (somewhat understandable) selfish desires they were willing to out their nation at risk and Israel learned a VERY big lesson from this fiasco. It will not likely be pulled into such a nation wrenching position in the future. There certainly are times when the life of one soldier deos not trump the well being of the entire nation. [perhaps in the first 40 years this policy was a proud and quaint source of Israeli unity and strength-but Israel is a bustling and modrn nation now] More solidified policy will be drawn up for protocols for negotiating prisoner release and certainly-a policy of overwhelming force to prevent an active kidnapping is reasonable and nothing unusual. I would still expect that prisoner exchanges far exceeding normal 1:1 ratios will be the rule for Israel and that left to others what to make of this policy as it doesn’t really concern them

      • annie
        annie on July 28, 2014, 11:30 am

        It is also completely cruel to expect one who survived 5 years of torture to speculate on wether a quick death or even violent but quick rescue would have been preferrable to 5 years of torture

        are there any source links about this alleged torture. i can’t recall reading about it before. did he say he was tortured?

      • justicewillprevail
        justicewillprevail on July 28, 2014, 11:43 am

        Shalit said nothing about being tortured. As I remember he refused to say that he was mistreated. I see you have the same contempt for his parents for having the temerity to campaign for his release. I am not surprised that you seek to justify the killing of Israeli soldiers by their own side, whilst denigrating the relatives of those captured. Do you expect them to be silenced when their sons are killed by their own army? Is it easier to lie to them and tell them they were killed in action? Or indeed for the policies of their benighted nation.

  5. Pixel
    Pixel on July 27, 2014, 9:13 pm

    Marc, had to stop reading when I got to “… Gaza war”.

    It’s not a war it’s a slaughter.

  6. DaBakr
    DaBakr on July 27, 2014, 9:53 pm

    Nobody can EVER verify a Silverstein ‘source’ as they’re always so nebulous and ‘mysterious. This is why he is almost universally discredited among all but the most rabid of anti-Zionists. Hell, I would trust most of the MW sources way before I would trust a silverstein report. He not only ‘brags’ about his journalistic ‘acumen’ but refuses to clear up matters which he could easily clear up w/o jeopardizing his ‘super secret deep cointell Israeli source’. And, if on the wild chance there is even some truth to the ‘report’ it never occurred to RS that most IDK would readily choose to be ‘rescued at all cost’ rather then be subject to years of torture and in addition be used as a pawn to torture his nation even further. No, I don’t suppose that would occur to him.
    It also could be that in hot pursuit to prevent the escape (and I am only speculating there is even any truth to story) the battalion used whatever force necessary to stop the kidnapping. Really. I mean-even a super anti-Zionist could understand why the soldiers may be well aware that policy is that everything will be done to prevent a successful kidnapping considering it is almost salivated over here and elsewhere everytime there is a report it may have happened. This piece only makes me laugh in contempt those commenters here that gushed about what “cowards” the “pimply faced” IDK soldiers were and “scared” to enter Gaza and “fight like men” when it is so easy to interpret what silverstein abhors as an act of bravery equal to any a Hamas fighter can be lauded for. So the articles point is that soldiers fight and die for their nations/people?

    • justicewillprevail
      justicewillprevail on July 28, 2014, 11:44 am

      Anyone whose opinion you don’t like is automatically ‘discredited’. It doesn’t make it any less true, though. As for the rest, spoken like a true fundamentalist ideologue. So the IDF soldiers would prefer to be shot than captured? Really? And you try to discredit Silverstein’s evidence. At least he has some, which is backed up by others.

  7. Bandolero
    Bandolero on July 28, 2014, 8:59 am

    Reading this story, I thought it may be a good idea to provide a link to the Wikipedia article titled “Hannibal directive” here too:

  8. annie
    annie on July 28, 2014, 12:08 pm

    just a side thought, a friend of mine living in the ME emailed me the day before silverstein posted his article informing me it was being reported in the arab press several examples/evidence in the last few years of israel killing their own as opposed to them being taken hostage. a big story there.

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