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?