was reminded this week of the old tale about a Jewish mother
taking leave of her son, who has been called up to
serve in the Czar's army against the Turks. "Don't
exert yourself too much," she admonishes him, "Kill a Turk
and rest. Kill another Turk and rest again..."
mother," he exclaims, "What if the Turk kills me?"
you?" she cries out. "Why? What have you done to him?"
is not a joke (and this is not a week for jokes). It is a
lesson in psychology. I was reminded of it when I read Ehud
Olmert's statement that more than anything else he was furious
about the outburst of joy in Gaza after the attack in Jerusalem,
in which eight yeshiva students were killed.
that, last weekend, the Israeli army killed 120 Palestinians
in the Gaza Strip, half of them civilians, among them dozens
of children. That was not "kill a Turk and rest". That was
"kill a hundred Turks and rest". But Olmert does not understand.
Five-Day war in Gaza (as a Hamas leader called it) was but
another short chapter in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle.
This bloody monster is never satisfied; its appetite just
grows with the eating.
chapter started with the "targeted liquidation" of five senior
militants inside the Gaza Strip. The "response" was a salvo
of rockets, and this time not only on Sderot, but also on
Ashkelon and Netivot. The "response" to the "response" was
the army's incursion and the wholesale killing.
stated aim was, as always, to stop the launching of the rockets.
The means: killing a maximum of Palestinians, in order to
teach them a lesson. The decision was based on the traditional
Israeli concept: hit the civilian population again and again,
until it overthrows its leaders. This has been tried hundreds
of times and has failed hundreds of times.
if an example for the folly of the propagators of this concept
had been lacking, it was provided on TV by ex-general Matan
Vilnai, when he said that the Palestinians are "bringing a
Shoah on themselves". The Hebrew word Shoah is known all over
the world, where it has one clear meaning: the Holocaust carried
out by the Nazis against the Jews.
decision was based on the traditional Israeli concept:
hit the civilian population again and again, until it
overthrows its leaders. This has been tried hundreds
of times and has failed hundreds of times.
utterance spread like a bushfire throughout the Arab world
and set off a shock wave. I, too, received dozens of phone
calls and e-mail messages from all over the world. How to
convince people that in day-to-day Hebrew usage, Shoah means
"only" a great disaster, and that General Vilnai, a former
candidate for Chief of Staff, is not the most intelligent
years ago, President Bush called for a "Crusade" against terrorism.
He had no idea that for hundreds of millions of Arabs, the
word "Crusade" brings to mind one of the biggest crimes in
human history, the appalling massacre committed by the original
crusaders against the Muslims (and Jews) in the alleys of
Jerusalem. In an intelligence contest between Bush and Vilnai,
the outcome, if any, would be in doubt.
does not understand what the word "Shoah" means to others,
and Olmert does not understand why there is rejoicing in Gaza
after the attack on the yeshiva in Jerusalem. Wise men like
these direct the state, the government and the army. Wise
men like these control public opinion through the media. What
is common to all of them: blunted sensibilities to the feelings
of anybody who is not Jewish/Israeli. From this springs their
inability to understand the psychology of the other side,
and hence the consequences of their own words and actions.
is also expressed in the inability to understand why the Hamas
people claimed victory in the Five-Day War. What victory?
After all, only two Israeli soldiers and one Israeli civilian
were killed, as against 120 Palestinian dead, both fighters
this battle was fought between one of the strongest armies
in the world, equipped with the most modern arms on earth,
and a few thousand irregulars with primitive arms. If the
battle ended in a draw - and such a battle always ends in
a draw - this is a great victory for the weak side. In Lebanon
War II and in the Gaza war. (Binyamin
Netanyahu made one of the most stupid statements this week,
when he demanded that "the Israeli army must move from attrition
to decision". In a struggle like this, there never is a decision.)
real effect of such an operation is not expressed in material
and quantitative facts: so-and-so many dead, so-and-so many
injured, so-and-so much destroyed. It is expressed in psychological
results that cannot be measured, and therefore are inaccessible
to the minds of generals: how much hatred has been added to
the seething pool, how many new potential suicide bombers
were produced, how many people vowed revenge and became ticking
bombs - like the Jerusalem youngster, who woke up one bright
morning this week, got himself a weapon, went to the Mercaz
Harav yeshiva, the mother of all settlements, and killed as
many as he could.
the political and military leadership of Israel sits down
to discuss what to do, how to "respond". No new idea has come
up or will come up, because not one of these politicians and
generals is able to bring up a new idea. They can only go
back to the hundred things they have already done, and that
have failed a hundred times.
real effect of such an operation is not expressed in
material and quantitative facts... It is expressed in
psychological results that cannot be measured, and therefore
are inaccessible to the minds of generals: how much
hatred has been added to the seething pool, how many
new potential suicide bombers were produced, how many
people vowed revenge and became ticking bombs.
step on the way out of this madness is the readiness to question
all our concepts and methods of the last 60 years and start
thinking again, right from the beginning.
is always hard. That is even harder for us, because our leadership
has no freedom of thought - its thinking is very closely tied
to the thinking of the American leadership.
week, a shocking document was published: David Rose's article
in Vanity Fair. It describes how US officials have in recent
years dictated every single step of the Palestinian leadership,
down to the most minute detail. Though the article does not
touch the Israeli-American relationship (in itself a surprising
omission) it goes without saying that the American course,
including the smallest items, is coordinated with the Israeli
shocking? These things were already known, in general terms.
In this respect, that article held no surprises: (a) The Americans
ordered Mahmoud Abbas to hold parliamentary elections, in
order to present Bush as bringing democracy to the Middle
East. (b) Hamas won a surprise victory. (c) The Americans
imposed a boycott on the Palestinians, in order to nullify
the election results. (d) Abbas diverted for a moment from
the policy dictated to him and, under Saudi auspices (and
pressure), made an agreement with Hamas. (e) The Americans
put an end to this and compelled Abbas to turn over all security
services to Muhammad Dahlan, whom they had chosen for the
role of strongman in Palestine. (f) The Americans provided
plenty of money and arms to Dahlan, trained his men and ordered
him to carry out a military coup against Hamas in the Gaza
Strip. (g) The elected Hamas government forestalled the move
and itself carried out an armed counter-coup.
this was known before. What is new is that the mixture of
news, rumors and intelligent guesses has now condensed into
an authoritative, well substantiated report, based on official
US documents. It testifies to the abysmal American ignorance,
which trumps even Israeli ignorance, of the internal Palestinian
Bush, Condoleezza Rice, the Zionist neocon Elliott Abrams
and the assortment of American generals innocent of any knowledge
are competing with Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni, Ehud Barak and
our own assorted generals, whose understanding reaches as
far as the end of the gun barrels of their tanks.
Americans have in the meantime destroyed Dahlan by exposing
him publicly as their agent, on the lines of "he's a son-of-a-bitch,
but he is our son-of-a-bitch". This week Condoleezza dealt
a mortal blow to Abbas, too. He had announced in the morning
that he was suspending the (meaningless) peace negotiations
with Israel, the very minimum he could do in response to the
Gaza atrocities. Rice, who received the news while she was
having breakfast in the exciting company of Livni, immediately
called Abbas and ordered him to cancel his announcement. Abbas
gave in, thus exposing himself to his people in all his nakedness.
Rose's article in Vanity Fair describes how US officials
have in recent years dictated every single step of the
Palestinian leadership, down to the most minute detail.
was not given to the People of Israel on Mount Sinai, but
handed down from Mount Olympus to the ancient Greeks. In spite
of this drawback, let us try to apply it.
is our government trying to achieve in Gaza? It wants to topple
Hamas rule (and incidentally also put an end to the launching
of rockets against Israel).
to achieve this by imposing a total blockade on the population,
hoping that they would rise up and overthrow Hamas. This failed.
The alternative course is to re-occupy the entire Strip. That
would carry a high price in lives of soldiers, perhaps more
than the Israeli public is ready to pay. Also, it will not
help, because Hamas will return the moment the Israeli troops
withdraw. (In accordance with Mao Zedong's first rule for
guerrillas: "When the enemy advances, withdraw. When the enemy
only result of the Five-Day War is the strengthening of Hamas
and the rallying of the Palestinian people behind it - not
just in the Gaza Strip, but in the West Bank and Jerusalem,
too. Their victory celebration was justified. The launching
of rockets did not stop. The range of the rockets is increasing.
let us assume that this policy had succeeded and that Hamas
had been broken. What then? Abbas and Dahlan could return
only on top of Israeli tanks, as subcontractors of the occupation.
No insurance company would cover their lives. And if they
did not come back, there would be chaos, out of which extreme
forces would emerge the like of which we cannot even imagine.
Hamas is there. It cannot be ignored. We have to reach a ceasefire
with it. Not a sham offer of "if they stop shooting first,
then we will stop shooting". A ceasefire, like a tango, needs
two participants. It must come out of a detailed agreement
that will include the cessation of all hostilities, armed
and otherwise, in all the territories.
ceasefire will not hold if it is not accompanied by speeded-up
negotiations for a long-term armistice (hudna) and peace.
Such negotiations cannot be held with Fatah and not Hamas,
nor with Hamas and not Fatah. Therefore, what is needed is
a Palestinian government that includes both movements. It
must bring in personalities who enjoy the confidence of the
entire Palestinian people, such as Marwan Barghouti.
is the very opposite of the present Israeli-American policy,
which forbids Abbas even to talk with Hamas. In all the Israeli
leadership, as in all the American leadership, there is no
one who dares to spell this out openly. Therefore, what has
been is what will be.
kill a hundred Turks and rest. And, from time to time, a Turk
will come and kill some of us.
for God's sake? What have we done to them?
The above article is published by Gush Shalom.
articles by Uri Avnery:
Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush
Shalom. He is one of the writers featured in The Other
Israel: Voices of Dissent and Refusal. He is also a contributor
to CounterPunch's hot new book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism.
Those who want to help out Gush Shalom can email firstname.lastname@example.org
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