For all the battles over “image and reality” in the Mideast you can not get a more unambiguous “story” than this video. An Israeli soldier, a medic no less, decided to execute a prone injured Palestinian on the ground in occupied Hebron on March 24. We viewers can’t be blamed in assuming that we have reached a point in history where all civilized societies agree you can’t just execute injured enemies on the ground because, say, the soldier got into a fight with his girlfriend that morning.
What then to make of this Sunday morning cabinet meeting of Israeli leaders three days after the killing?
I thought that we would hear the usual Hasbara that goes out in these situations. “Look what we do with our murdering medic. We arrest him.” “The Muslims even if they had as good medics as our Jewish medics would celebrate them.” “The Muslims don’t even have many medics. Look what Sam Harris says about how many Jews win Nobel Prizes compared to Muslims!”
And what an opportunity it was for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to show the world’s opinion makers that Israel has cabinet members with prime ministerial aspirations even more dangerous to the world than “Bibi” Netanyahu, so — wink wink— Please “lower the rhetoric” about Israel, world, or you will have to start imagining things a little more dangerous to world stability, like Mr. Naftali Bennett running Israel.
Yet none of this happened.
What did happen was the Israeli cabinet competed with each other to show who is more “understanding” of the murdering medic.
Netanyahu said (from Haaretz):
“Questioning the IDF’s [Israeli Defense Force’s] morality is outrageous and unacceptable… IDF soldiers, our children, maintain a high moral standard when they deal with bloodthirsty murderers.” The army’s murder investigation must take into account the fact that “IDF soldiers deal with bloodthirsty murderers under difficult operational circumstances.”
Education Minister Bennett said:
“Talk of a murder charge against a combat soldier during a combat operation is a moral mistake that blurs the lines between good and evil. I expect his mistake to be mended.”
Then three weeks later, Netanyahu issued a statement going even further:
As the father of a soldier and as Prime Minister, I would like to reiterate: The IDF backs its soldiers…. Our soldiers are not murderers.
They act against murderers and I hope that a way will be found to balance between the action and the overall context of the event.
What is happening here? How is it that Netanyahu is getting away without even being defensive about what is seemingly a good-for-the-anti-Semites P.R. disaster?
What does it mean that this unambiguous killing is so unselfconsciously being defended, explained, and excused? And why wasn’t there more shock and outrage from western governments and the press to bring pressure to Israel over this murder, and cause the Israeli government to at least acknowledge some worrying trends?
And, to finish the sequence of events: What is the meaning of General Yair Golan’s Holocaust speech that the Israeli media have interpreted as a reaction and even a rebuke to the official discourse around our murdering medic.
Golan is deputy chief of staff for the IDF. The key quotes from his speech were these lines:
“The Holocaust, in my opinion, must lead us to a deep reflection on the nature of the human, even when that human is ourselves; It must lead us to a deep reflection on the responsibilities of leadership, and on the quality of society. It must lead us to think thoroughly about how we – here and now – treat the foreigner, the widow and the orphan, and those similar to them.
“The Holocaust must lead us to think about our public life, and even more so, it must lead all those who can – not just those who want – to bear public responsibility. Because If there is something that scares us about the memory of the Holocaust, it is identifying nauseating processes that occurred in Europe in general and Germany in particular, 70, 80 and 90 years ago, and finding evidence of their presence here among us, today, in 2016.”
It turns out that this one extra-judicial killing in Hebron and the Israeli Government and its supporters’ reaction goes to a much larger question, and that is, what is the message of the Holocaust? What is the takeaway today from those horrible events that happened between 1933-1945? What should we learn from them to help us in 2016?
That scene in Hebron, the ground zero of the occupation and apartheid, is nothing less than a Rorschach test on “What does the Holocaust mean to you?”
Netanyahu and his cabinet and all those in Israel who would like to toast the medic, Elior Azarua, as well as all our neocons and their fellow travelers in the United States and elsewhere who would make excuses for the murder (that is, if they didn’t do such a good job of ignoring the story) share the notion that the Holocaust, albeit by far the most damaging event, was a continuation in a long list of events in Jewish History where Jews have been preyed upon by the surrounding people for reasons having to do with a certain Jewish singularity or superiority. Or as Abe Foxman put it regarding the Holocaust:
The Holocaust is something different. It is a singular event. It is not simply one example of genocide but a near successful attempt on the life of God’s chosen children and, thus, on God himself. It is an event that is the antithesis of Creation as recorded in the Bible; and like its direct opposite, which is relived weekly with the Sabbath and yearly with the Torah, it must be remembered from generation to generation.
These ideologues believe, as Netanyahu has often said: “The will to destroy the Jewish people has not changed. What has changed is our ability to defend ourselves and our determination to do so.”
Thus Netanyahu is saying that somehow today’s enemies of Israel have “inherited” “the will to destroy Jews” and the only thing that has changed is Israel and Jews’ determination to stop them.
So led by Netanyahu in Israel and his propagandists abroad, the lesson of the Holocaust is that the contemporary Jewish enemies like the Palestinians and the Iranians want to destroy Israel (whatever that means), kill as many Jews as they can because as is known from Jewish history the thirst for Jewish blood is unquenchable. And if that’s not obvious to you, Netanyahu will be happy to give you a “seminar” about Jewish history and the lessons of historical anti-semitism, whether you are the President of the U.S. in the Oval Office or ignorant U.N. officials.
Daniel Jonah Goldhagen is one of the “philosophers” of this movement. He writes that the hatred for Jews has nothing to do with Israel as such.
“Anyone who claims that the antipathy of the region, or of the world at large, is only for Israel because of its policies, and not toward Jews in general because of their Jewness, or who claims that such people’s intent is anything but eliminationist toward Israel the country and toward Jews in general because of their Jewness, is being duped or is seeking to dupe others…”
And Jeffrey Goldberg’s life’s goal is to demonstrate that Muslims refer to Israelis as “Jews” and to use all of his propagandist tools in his very large propagandist toolbox to achieve that goal.
This “understanding” of the Holocaust is sacred to these people. They are fanatical about protecting what they see as their turf and inheritance. So if only the Palestinians can be like “normal” occupied people they would have had a state long ago. But they’re not; and what do you expect Israel to do? These Palestinians have a two-stage plan, to drive the Jews into the sea and finish the job that Hitler started.
(How this tiny segment of the Jewish community has claimed the copyright on all things Hitler, Nazi, Jewish, Israel, anti-Semitic, will be discussed at length in my next article.)
So what then is there to be defensive about? Who wouldn’t defend or even toast the murdering medic if the “context of the events” was not as it so clearly looked– which was the murder of an injured Palestinian exercising his right to resist occupation– but rather a hybrid Cossack/Nazi/ somehow transported from the European past to Hebron.
Now Netanyahu’s “overall context of the event’ makes more sense.
Without our explanation the overall context looks like plain and simple murder. But these people Israel is fighting are not normal enemies they’re not normal people. They are, according to Goldhagen, “devils.”
This very comforting tribal ethnocentric nonsense can’t even be questioned. Because Goldberg “knows” that Khamenei is counting the days till Iran will get the bomb and blow up the world and if you happen to catch his last dying words it surely will be: “At least we got the Jews.” And if a sober journalist like James Fallows doesn’t acknowledge that Jeffrey Goldberg is the world’s number 1 sniffer out of anti-Semites, then questions are going to be raised about the disturbing “coincidence” of Fallows publishing comments from Germans for his support of the Iran Nuclear deal–
“Fallows then quoted a German reader—nice touch!”
Wait, Fallows, isn’t your expertise China? Why are you even fixated on Israel? Aren’t there other things going on in the world?
It goes without saying that not everyone in Israel is this delusional. And that is the importance of Golan’s speech. Golan sees what’s happening in Netanyahu’s Israel and he fears he recognizes what he is seeing. He must have known he would not get away with his Holocaust speech without a public undressing followed by a Soviet-like public confession and apology. But what to do? He really had something that needed to be said.
Maybe he thought, “I need to go on record before it’s too late.” Maybe my army career is over but history will say something nice about me.
You can read General Golan’s speech here, thanks to Americans for Peace Now, but let me put words in General Golan’s mouth.
“Mr. Netanyahu you have me running an occupation. And even an ‘enlightened’ one such as ours has volatility. Yet every day you Mr. Netanyahu find the most primordial area of the Jewish psyche and scream ‘fire.’
“Mr. Netanyahu with all due respect, however this story ends we are going to have to live with these people. Do you think that all that is needed when a ‘compromise’ is reached in the future is for a PM to just announce, ‘We have peace and the Palestinians are not bloodthirsty Nazi/cossacks anymore?’
“But we have more immediate problems than even you sabotaging the possibility of Jews and Muslims ever living in peace, in some long distant future.
“The world has let you, a pyromaniac, carve out a little place here in Israel with total immunity. You and your tribal supremacy Government can break every rule of what has long since determined to be unacceptable behavior on the part of ‘enlightened’ countries. Just a year ago you told us that Arabs were coming out ‘in droves’ to the polls.
“You play on your tribe’s fears like a virtuoso and indeed no one in the world is going to call you out on it. Congratulations, Mr. Prime Minister, that must feel like a great achievement. I don’t speak English as well as you, nor am I as great a student of Jewish history. But I have studied some non-Jewish history and know the concept of a ‘pyrrhic victory.’ Even though Jews didn’t come up with that warning some of our great rabbis have told us that it is possible to learn some things from the goyim.
“Even on a human level, have you no shame about your statements? You’re using the same tricks the anti-Semites used against us to ignite ugly passions. I don’t need to be as great as a historian as you are to know about your great hero Jabotinsky describing the ‘pogrom like’ atmosphere in the 1911 Warsaw elections. To prove his point, he quoted the Polish anti-semites speaking of Jews “in droves.”
[Jabotinsky] quotes a few tracts handed out by Polish nationalists, including one that says: “Calling on our people: Look what is happening at the polling stations. The Jews are heading to them in droves, and the Poles are scattered… If you vote for the pseudo-progressive party, Warsaw will be represented by Jews. Poles, save your capital!”
“Jabotinsky concluded, ‘I rest my case’.
“Mr. Netanyahu, how you love being interviewed in America. Because who would dare ask you a tough follow up question? During an interview on Fox last year, you were asked by Megyn Kelly if you regretted comments you had made about Arab-Israelis turning out to vote ‘in droves.’ And then too you spoke about “context.”
[T]the Israeli premier said his words “should be taken in a larger context.”
“I warned of foreign money coming in to selectively try and bring out supporters of a list that includes Islamists and other factions that oppose the State of Israel,”
“Mr. Netanyahu how much impunity do you have? You have this amazing ‘larger context’ for screaming ‘fire’ to our tribe. Your response to Ms. Kelly’s question is to start talking about Israel’s enemies. Well I’m quite sure the Polish nationalists had their own ‘larger context’ if they were asked by a reporter to explain their anti semitic behavior.
“I am sure you know as a scholar of the Third Reich the famous Himmler speech to his SS comrades, in which he scoffed at all the soft-hearted Germans trying to save their Jewish friends.
“And then they all come along, the eighty million good Germans, and each one has his decent Jew. Of course the others are swine, but this one is a first-class Jew. (some laughter) Of all those who talk like this, not one has watched, not one has stood up to it. Most of you know what it means to see a hundred corpses lying together, five hundred, or a thousand. To have gone through this and yet – apart from a few exceptions, examples of human weakness – to have remained decent fellows, this is what has made us hard. This is a glorious page in our history that has never been written and shall never be written.
“Mr. Netanyahu I’m sure an intellectual as great as yourself has spent some time contemplating what Himmler means here by saying we have remained “decent fellows’ even after we have created a thousand corpses. You and I can’t even imagine the barbarism these men have committed– yet they’ve remained ‘decent.’ How can that be, Mr Netanyahu? Can the SS really be ‘decent’? But Himmler must know what he is saying: when these SS guys have a barbecue in the neighborhood everyone just looks at them so wonderful with all the neighbors and their kids and the dogs and says, What ‘decent’ guys.
“In fact, for Germans, these SS guys are the most decent of decent. They do the ugly work for all the Germans. It’s almost like: the SS loves Germany more than all other Germans.
“I’ve been in the army a long time, Mr. Prime Minister, and I have to tell you I am also very disturbed by the other soldiers at the scene in that video, their non-reaction to the Hebron killing. They did not skip a beat after hearing that shot! It was a very tense situation there in Hebron, but they just immediately went right back to whatever they were doing. So it is clear to me that this extrajudicial killing does not look like an uncommon occurrence to these soldiers. Mr Prime Minister, does that unit also have a ‘glorious page in our history that has never been written and shall never be written?’
“And what would have happened if right before the murder, a different medic, realizing the wounded Palestinian had been left on the ground like a dog and had not received any medical attention. went over to administer aid? Maybe this medic hadn’t gone to a West Bank yeshiva and had had a totally secular, universalist, education. He had somehow graduated from school and missed the mandatory ‘Jewish Values’ course. He knows about trying to aspire to have one morality, not one for your tribe and a different one for everyone else. To aspire to not look at your enemies as less human than you even though they are in your enemies and they are constantly trying to kill you and even your civilians in this war. To aim to follow the Geneva Convention and not commit war crimes even though your tribal passions are also inflamed. Well, would the murdering medic shoot him too because he was a traitor to the Jews? If he wasn’t shot would this non-murdering medic be ostracized in that unit? Would his patriotism now be in question? Would his new nickname be ‘terrorist lover.’ Or ‘Jew hater?’
“Sir, I, General Golan, have an entirely different understanding of what the lesson of the Holocaust is. We have seen where the Romantic Nationalism of the 19th century led. These forces awaken the worst urges in men and women. And every society to remain healthy needs to constantly monitor and check those dark forces. And if not, all sorts of bad things are likely to happen.
“And if you tell your people the world is full of enemies… and those enemies have traitorous allies right here amongst us… And that we have to be vigilant…. And that our enemies are less than human, that 1000 of them are not worth even one fingernail of ours, and that the most important thing to remember is that we are always good and they are always evil… And no matter what they say rest assured it is some nefarious plot against us…. where does that lead?
“I cannot help but imagine that it was also outrageous to question the morality of the German people, say, after the pogrom of Kristallnacht in 1938. I imagine that their leaders said, ‘We are the most moral people in the world, and if other people would just walk in our German shoes, who knows the way they would treat the Jews. We just broke a lot of glass and a few bones and maybe a couple of accidental deaths.’
“Mr Netanyahu, I have a question. What would the IDF need to do for you to say ‘Today they stopped being the most moral army in the world?’ I suspect you can’t think of an answer, that there is nothing past or present that the IDF did or will do that you won’t shout, ‘It is outrageous for anyone to question the morality of the IDF. The IDF is the most moral army in the world. These are OUR CHILDREN who are protecting us from the most vile bloodthirsty creatures the world has ever known.’
“I’m curious. What has to happen for the the IDF to slip to the ‘second most moral army in the world’ even just for a month? What event will you say, ‘Uh oh, that knocks us right out of first place.’
“Do you understand, Mr. Netanyahu the ‘morality” of an army is not based on whether soldiers will help old women cross the street. When you ‘defeat your enemy,’ that is when the race for the most ‘moral army in the world’ competition really starts. Israel is not the first country to have enemies. Elor Azarya is not the first soldier in history to have the urge to murder an injured prisoner. But until you came along there was at least a pretense that our conflict with the Palestinians is not a tribal war to the death.
“But you will have none of that. If you found yourself alone with Sgt Azarya and this time they really did ‘turn the camera off’ and no one was listening what would you tell him? Would you quote some French Enlightenment philosopher giving the sergeant one of your patronizing lectures why what he did was wrong? Or would you put your arm around his shoulder telling him you share his pain after ‘those animals’ hurt a Jew, but we have enemies everywhere and what he did was simply ‘not good for the Jews.’
“I fear the same thing about all the talk about blood libels. I couldn’t help but notice that in spite of most people believing that ‘blood libels’ were only to be found in history books, there seems to have been a recent outbreak of them. You and your friends can’t wait to throw that accusation around. Here is your ‘left of center’ former ambassador Michael Oren calling Bernie Sanders’s comment on 10,000 Gaza deaths– “Is that the right number anyone?”– a blood libel. And Dov Hikind said the same thing in Brooklyn, as he chased the senator in the streets.
“Mr. Prime Minister, you might think me a self hating Jew, but when you try and exculpate Hitler of the Holocaust and instead implicate the mufti and the Palestinians for coming up with the idea of “burning the Jews” and the Holocaust– well that’s almost on the ‘blood libel’ level of blaming all Jews for the death of Jesus.
“But by such rhetorical trickery you and Jeffrey Goldberg and others have convinced the world that our enemies are uniquely evil and diabolical. And the proof of how successful you have been at that convincing, is the world’s deafening silence to the murdering medic and to your Government’s shocking attitude.
“So I ask you, Now what? Thanks to you we have a population that views every IDF action as too restrained. They long ago internalized that by definition there is no IDF action that is not responding to or stopping the next terror attack.
“What is the logical conclusion to all this? The blood pressure of the citizens of Israel is only going in one direction. From Hamas to BDS to the Labour Party in England to the Mufti in his grave to Khameini to Chuck Hagel to James Fallows. Everyone is out to get the Jews.
“That is a great tactic to win yourself elections, and to get Hillary Clinton to give a speech to Aipac sounding like she was running for Mayor of a West Bank settlement.
“But Mr Netanyahu you have no strategy at all. You need to stop this madness. However this ends, We are going to have to live with the Palestinians. You are slowly but surely making that impossible.”
Yes, I have put words in General Golan’s mouth, but if you read his speech, you will see that my interpretation is a fair one, and it is the deep reflection that Golan wants. There is no question he is taking a stand here.
“The Holocaust, in my opinion, must lead us to a deep reflection on the nature of the human, even when that human is ourselves..”
Translation. The Holocaust warrants deep reflection of the human even when that human is the victims, the Jews.
The general has put himself in the camp of among others the leftists in Europe that have taken a “universalist message” from the Holocaust. And he sees what they see.
He knew this speech would not be received well. But he looks at Netanyahu as the proverbial devil whispering in his people’s ears, “It’s OK to feel that anger and fury. You are right to feel righteous rage. We are alone in the world. The world has always been against us and is against us now. But even if they don’t we know the righteousness of our cause. And as long as we stay steadfast and united we won’t be defeated.”
And he knows that by such communications, Israel is getting to the point of no return. The people soon will not be able to be restrained.
Golan is saying that this whole murdering medic story– whose family Netanyahu called to show his support, whose actions Netanyahu and everyone else in the government are finding at a minimum “understandable”– this story DOES NOT END WELL!
Golan is telling Netanyahu:
You believe the Holocaust has a lesson for the whole world about the Jews, and that lesson is for everyone besides the Jews. But I say No!
And that is the true lesson of the Holocaust.