Israeli history is filled with terrorists who became Prime Minister. While pre-state Jewish terror leaders of the Irgun and Stern Gang, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, are often noted as the obvious examples, master-ethnic-cleanser David Ben-Gurion should also be remembered as such, and there are those who have created their own terrorist legacy in state-terror, such as Ariel Sharon.
Now comes another candidate: Benjamin (‘Benny’) Gantz.
Gantz, former Israeli army Chief of Staff (2011-2015), is challenging Benjamin Netanyahu for the Prime Minister post in the upcoming April elections, and doing it from the supposed ‘left’.
Gantz commanded two of Israel’s large-scale onslaughts on Gaza after Hamas was elected in 2006: the 2012 “Operation Pillar of Defense” (“Pillar of Cloud” in Hebrew), and the biggest and most murderous onslaught to date, the 2014 “Operation Protective Edge” (“Mighty Cliff” in Hebrew), which according to the UN killed 2,251 Palestinians, including 1,462 civilians, among them 551 children.
Israel basically exonerated itself from any wrongdoing in Protective Edge, but Gantz is being sued for war crimes (together with then Israeli Air Force chief Amir Eshel) in The Netherlands, by Palestinian-Dutch citizen Ismail Ziada, who lost his 70-year-old mother Muftia Ziada, three brothers, a sister-in-law and a 12-year-old nephew, in the 2014 bombing of his family house in Al-Bureij refugee camp.
The 2014 onslaught was more murderous than the one in 2008-9, “Cast Lead,” which the UN ‘Goldstone’ report regarded as a “deliberately disproportionate attack, designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population”.
In Israel, those who punish, humiliate and terrorize, also brag about doing so.
Hence, Gantz launched his campaign under the party “Hosen L’Israel” (“Israel’s Resilience”), with a series of unbelievably violent and bellicose videos. One of them features aerial footage of pulverized neighborhoods in Gaza at the end of the 2014 onslaught (in black and white), with a headline saying that “parts of Gaza were returned to the stone age”. It boasts of “1364 terrorists killed” (when the UN count for combatants was less than 800; thus Gantz counts close to 600 civilians as “terrorists”) and says that the result is “3.5 years of quiet”. The video contains the repeated slogan “only the strong wins” and ends like all of the clips with the slogan “Gantz – Israel before everything”. As Ali Abunimah notes, the latter could just as well be translated as the Trumpian “Israel first.”
Another video uses real-time aerial footage of the November 14, 2012 extrajudicial assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed Jabari . Gantz calls Jabari an “arch-terrorist”, but Aluf Benn, chief editor of Haaretz, called him “Israel’s subcontractor in Gaza”. Benn writes on the day of the assassination in 2012:
‘Israel Killed Its Subcontractor in Gaza’ –
The political outcome of the operation will become clear on January 22 [elections], but the strategic ramifications are more complex: Israel will have to find a new subcontractor to replace Ahmed Jabari as its border guard in the south. Ahmed Jabari was a subcontractor, in charge of maintaining Israel’s security in Gaza. This title will no doubt sound absurd to anyone who in the past several hours has heard Jabari described as “an arch-terrorist,” “the terror chief of staff” or “our Bin Laden.” But that was the reality for the past five and a half years. Israel demanded of Hamas that it observe the truce in the south and enforce it on the multiplicity of armed organizations in the Gaza Strip. The man responsible for carrying out this policy was Ahmed Jabari.
In fact, according to Gershon Baskin, who helped mediate between Israel and Hamas in the deal to release captured soldier Gilad Shalit,
[H]ours before Hamas strongman Ahmed Jabari was assassinated, he received the draft of a permanent truce agreement with Israel, which included mechanisms for maintaining the cease-fire in the case of a flare-up between Israel and the factions in the Gaza Strip.
Coming at the heels of various and systematic extrajudicial executions by Israel in Gaza, the Jabari killing was a high-level political assassination that definitively shattered an earlier truce and the chances of a renewed one, and launched operation “Pillar of Defense.”
But in Israeli Newspeak, those who murder are men of peace. Thus, another video presents Gantz the ‘peacenik’:
“It is not a shame, that there would be yearning for peace,” he says.
That’s really something. How revolutionary! Don’t be ashamed if you want peace – come out of the closet! The speech continues:
Do we want to send our children to fight in another 25 years? No! But we might have to do it? Probably yes. In another 50 years? Probably yes. What will we tell them? That we did nothing? That we didn’t try? That we didn’t strive? That we didn’t examine? I’m not prepared to have a generation without hope that things could be different here.
This is a kind of Netanyahu-Benny Morris cocktail. Netanyahu said in 2015 that “we will forever live by the sword”. But Benny Morris, the ‘leftist’ (and genocidal) Israeli historian, has recently posited that peace talks would provide a useful façade for this belligerency, since it would “retain the West’s sympathy”:
Even if territorial compromise with the Palestinians is not realistic in this generation, as was also the case earlier, you have to play the diplomatic game – even if you know it won’t lead anywhere – in order to retain the West’s sympathy. You have to look like you’re pursuing peace, even if you’re not.
Gantz’s version amounts to “Let’s show the soldiers we’re trying, while we assassinate right and left, massacre and pulverize neighborhoods back to the stone age, and talk peace.”
Gantz’s “Only the strong wins” is a rather obvious echoing of Netanayhu’s recent fascistic advocacy made at the Dimona nuclear plant (newly-dubbed Shimon Peres Nuclear Research Center):
“The weak crumble, are slaughtered and are erased from history while the strong, for good or for ill, survive… the strong are respected, and alliances are made with the strong, and in the end peace is made with the strong.”
Netanyahu was obviously cited as echoing Hitler. So what if Netanyahu said “peace”? It’s quite clear that in the end, it’s about a Spartan, eternal ‘living by the sword’.
Will Gantz now get a pass for being a supposed peacenik because he challenges Netanyahu from the left?
Gantz’s boast about killing many “terrorists” (most of the killed actually being civilians) is akin to Education Minister Naftali Bennet’s boast of having “killed lots of Arabs and there’s no problem with that”. For Gantz, Not only is there no problem with that, it’s even an honor.
So that’s Israel. Two options. Fascist and fascist. Good-cop-bad-cop, and even the good one is just awful. Although Gantz’s party is currently polling at some 13 seats of 120 (compared to Netanyahu’s Likud polling at over 30), it is expected that his party would serve as a basis for the formation of some kind of left-center challenge. And the two leaders are racing against each other: 31 percent of Israelis now believe Gantz is more suitable than Netanyahu for the prime minister post, compared with 42 percent who favor Netanyahu. Maybe more bellicose videos will enhance Gantz’s chances, for those Israelis who will forever live by the sword.