God for the American elections," our ministers and generals sighed
They were not rejoicing at the kick that the American people delivered
to George W. Bush's ass last week. They love Bush, after all.
But more important than the humbling of Bush is the fact that
the news from America pushed aside the terrible reports from Beit
Hanoun. Instead of making the headlines, they were relegated to
the bottom of the page.
first revolutionary act is to call things by their true names,
Rosa Luxemburg said. So how to call what happened in Beit Hanoun
[on November 8, 2006]?
said a pretty anchorwoman on one of the TV news programs. "Tragedy",
said her lovely colleague on another channel. A third one, no
less attractive, wavered between "event", "mistake" and "incident".
It was indeed an accident, a tragedy, an event and an incident.
But most of all it was a massacre. M-a-s-s-a-c-r-e.
The word "accident" suggests something for which no one is to
blame - like being struck by lightning. A tragedy is a sad event
or situation, like that of the New Orleans inhabitants after the
disaster. The event in Beit Hanoun was sad indeed, but not an
act of God - it was an act decided upon and carried out by human
after the facts became known, the entire choir of professional
apologists, explainers-away, sorrow-expressers and pretext-inventors,
a choir that is in perpetual readiness for such cases, sprang
into feverish action.
unfortunate mistake... It can happen in the best families... The
mechanism of a cannon can misfunction, people can make mistakes...
Errare humanum est... We have launched tens of thousands of artillery
shells, and there have only been three such accidents. (No. 1
in the Olmert-Peretz-Halutz era was in Qana, in the Second Lebanon
War. No. 2 was on the Gaza sea shore, where a whole family was
wiped out.) But we apologized, didn't we? What more can they demand
suggestion of equivalence
between Qassams and artillery shells,
an idea which has been adopted even
by some of the Peaceniks,
is completely false. And not only
because there is no symmetry
between occupier and occupied.
Hundreds of Qassams launched
during more than a year have killed
one single Israeli. The shells, missiles
and bombs have already killed
many hundreds of Palestinians.
were also arguments like "They can only blame themselves." As
usual, it was the fault of the victims. The most creative solution
came from the Deputy Minister of Defense, Ephraim Sneh: "The practical
responsibility is ours, but the moral responsibility is theirs."
If they launch Qassam rockets at us, what else can we do but answer
Ephraim Sneh was raised to the position of Deputy Minister just
now. The appointment was a payment for agreeing to the inclusion
of Avigdor Liberman in the government (in biblical Hebrew, the
payment would have been called "the hire of a whore", Deut. 23,19).
Now, after only a few days in office, Sneh was given the opportunity
to express his thanks.
(In the Sneh family, there is a tradition of justifying despicable
acts. Ephraim's brilliant father, Moshe Sneh, was the leader of
the Israeli Communist Party, and defended all the massacres committed
by Stalin, not only the gulag system, but also the murder of the
Jewish Communists in the Soviet Union and its satellites and the
Jewish "doctors plot").
Any suggestion of equivalence between Qassams and artillery shells,
an idea which has been adopted even by some of the Peaceniks,
is completely false. And not only because there is no symmetry
between occupier and occupied. Hundreds of Qassams launched during
more than a year have killed one single Israeli. The shells, missiles
and bombs have already killed many hundreds of Palestinians.
the shells hit the homes of people intentionally? There are only
two possible answers to that.
The extreme version says: Yes. The sequence of events points in
that direction. The Israeli army, one of the most modern in the
world, has no answer to the Qassam, one of the most primitive
of weapons. This short-range unguided rocket (named after Izz-ad-Din
al-Qassam, the first Palestinian fighter, who was killed in 1935
in a battle against the British authorities of Palestine) is little
more than a pipe filled with home-made explosives.
In a futile attempt to prevent the launching of Qassams, the Israeli
forces invade the towns and villages of the Gaza Strip at regular
intervals and institute a reign of terror. Two weeks ago, they
invaded Beit Hanoun and killed more than 50 people, many of them
women and children. The moment they left, the Palestinians started
to launch as many Qassams as possible against Ashkelon, in order
to prove that these incursions do not deter them.
That increased the frustration of the generals even more. Ashkelon
is not a remote poverty-stricken little town like Sderot, most
of whose inhabitants are of Moroccan origin. In Ashkelon there
lives also an elitist population of European descent. The army
chiefs, having lost their honor in Lebanon, were eager - according
to this version - to teach the Palestinians a lesson, once and
for all. According to the Israeli saying: If force doesn't work,
use more force.
The other version holds that it was a real mistake, an unfortunate
technical hitch. But the commander of an army knows very well
that a certain incidence of "hitches" is unavoidable. So-and-so
many percent are killed in training, so-and-so many percent die
from "friendly fire", so-and-so many percent of shells fall some
distance from the target. The ammunition used by the gunners against
Beit Hanoun - the very same 155mm ammunition that was used in
Qana - is known for its inaccuracy. Several factors can cause
the shells to stray from their course by hundreds of meters.
He who decided to use this ammunition against a target right next
to civilians knowingly exposed them to mortal danger. Therefore,
there is no essential difference between the two versions.
Who is to blame? First of all, the spirit that has gained ground
in the army. Recently, Gideon Levy disclosed that a battalion
commander praised his soldiers for killing 12 Palestinians with
the words: "We have won by 12:0!"
guiltiest one is the
Great Apologizer: Ehud Olmert,
the Prime Minister. Olmert
recently that because of the clever
behavior of his government
"we were able to kill hundreds
of terrorists, and the world has
are, of course, the gunners and their commanders, including the
battery chief. And the General in charge of the Southern Command,
Yoav Gallant (sic), who radiates indifference spiked with sanctimonious
platitudes. And the Deputy Chief-of-Staff. And the Chief-of-Staff,
Dan Halutz, the Air-Force general who said after another such
an incident that he sleeps well at night after dropping a one-ton
super-bomb on a residential area. And, of course, the Minister
of Defense, Amir Peretz, who approved the use of artillery after
forbidding it in the past - which means that he was aware of the
The guiltiest one is the Great Apologizer: Ehud Olmert, the Prime
Olmert boasted recently that because of the clever behavior of
his government "we were able to kill hundreds of terrorists, and
the world has not reacted." According to Olmert, a "terrorist"
is any armed Palestinian, including the tens of thousands of Palestinian
policemen who carry arms by agreement with Israel. They may now
be shot freely. "Terrorists" are also the women and children,
who are killed in the street and in their homes. (Some say so
openly: the children grow up to be terrorists, the women give
birth to children who grow up to be terrorists.)
Olmert can go on with this, as he says, because the world keeps
silent. Today the US even vetoed a very mild Security Council
resolution against the event. Does this mean that the governments
throughout the world - America, Europe, the Arab world - are accessories
to the crime at Beit Hanoun? That can best be answered by the
citizens of those countries.
world did not pay much attention to the massacre, because it happened
on US election day. The results of the election may sadden our
leaders more than the blood and tears of mothers and children
in the Gaza strip, but they were glad that the election diverted
fact is that the American people
has accepted, after a delay of
three years and tens of thousands
of dead, what the advocates of peace
around the word - including us here
in Israel - were saying already
on the first day: that the war will
cause a disaster. That it will not
solve any problem, but have
the opposite effect.
cynic might say: Democracy is wonderful, it enables the voter
to kick out the moron they elected last time and replace them
with a new moron.
But let's not be too cynical. The fact is that the American people
has accepted, after a delay of three years and tens of thousands
of dead, what the advocates of peace around the word - including
us here in Israel - were saying already on the first day: that
the war will cause a disaster. That it will not solve any problem,
but have the opposite effect.
The change will not be quick and dramatic. The US is a huge ship.
When it turns around, it makes a very big circle and needs a lot
of time - unlike Israel, a small speed-boat that can turn almost
on the spot. But the direction is clear.
Of course, in both new houses of Congress, the pro-Israeli lobby
(meaning: the supporters of the Israeli Right) has a huge influence,
perhaps even more than in the last ones. But the American army
will have to start leaving Iraq. The danger of another military
adventure in Iran and/or Syria is much diminished. The crazy neo-conservatives,
most of them Jews who support the extreme Right in Israel, are
gradually losing power, together with their allies, the crazy
As former Prime Minister Levy Eshkol once said: when America sneezes,
Israel catches cold. When America starts to recover, perhaps there
is hope for us, too.
The above article is published by Gush
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 [email protected]
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