Circling the Schools with Tanks

Anyone who remembers Avigdor Kahalani from that most embarrassing period of his life – when he served as Minister of Internal Security – wasn’t all that surprised by his latest schtick. The teachers’ strike threatens harm to the commemoration project Kahalani planned for himself while still living; and therefore the former division commander, who forced the Golan Druze to accept Israeli citizenship, struck out once more against Israeli democracy.

We are informed by Kahalani that the Security Ministry (where Kahalani holds the shudder-inducing title of Chief of the Security-Social Dept.), will send buses full of officers, who will take the place of the striking teachers, and take the students – I’m sorry, I meant “the future soldiers” – to those old battlefields.

Personally, I am of the opinion that Kahalani somehow manages, in every minute he draws breath after that battle, to besmirch the memory of one of the most impressive battles in history. While Kahalani may not have “saved the State of Israel” in October 1973, as he tends to brag and as the panic-stricken General Staff believed at the time, he did inflict a stunning defeat on the enemy, suffered relatively few losses, and demonstrated admirable coolness under fire and tactical verve.

A normal man would have retired after the Battle of the Vale of Tears, would have understood there were no mountains left to climb; but Kahalani insisted on planting himself in Israeli memory even 34 years later. There’s a reason why old soldiers are expected to fade away: they are, almost without exception, a serious embarrassment to themselves and others when they take off their uniforms. And Kahalani does not break the mold.

Kahalani did not, in all likelihood think through his act; and would not, in all likelihood, understand why replacing striking teachers with officers paid by the State is problematic, even if someone tried to explain it to him; furthermore, all this is done so that the students will get a concentrated dose of Kahalani’s bio.

But why pick on Kahalani? After all, he’s not paying for the buses out of his own pocket; the Security Ministry does. He did not handpick the officers, they did not come because they heard it on the grapevine; they’ll board those buses as per orders. They will be sent by a Security Minister who has recently declared “there is no one who is unfit to serve in the IDF”, which was the latest step in his incitement campaign against people his own ministry disqualified from serve.

The involvement of officers in education did not begin with Kahalani, after all. Education Minister Limor Livnat embraced a “colonel for every high school” plan. There was no public outcry at that; the plan came on top of the planned “checkpoint classes”, which would have taught students – sorry again, I meant future warriors – how to behave at a checkpoint in the Occupied Territories. And when some students protested the arrival of a general at their high school, their fellow students threw stones at them.

The basic purpose of the modern school, an institute dating to Napoleonic France, is to qualify young people to serve in the military, to educate them to loyality to the State, and to qualify them for the work market. Israel, which looks more and more like a neglected branch of the IDF, had it backwards for quite a long time.

The government is encouraging an entire segment of the population not to work; soldiers are considered to be “children”, whose blood is redder than that of civilians; the army is much more important and much more influential than the democratic institutes; and, accordingly, the Education Ministry is considering abolishing the civics matriculation exams.

Kahalani’s mini-putsch will not cause a public debate; there will be no protest. In Israel, the Green Beast is the Golden Calf (and it costs accordingly), and woe to the person who will criticize it. And so, the next time a ruthless senior minister or prime minister – say, Binyamin Netanyahu; say, Ehud Barak; say Ehud Olmert – will wish to break an annoying yet legitimate strike, the flag-wrapped Kahalani shall serve them as a precedent, as a justification.

The Battle of the Vale of Tears shall be reason enough for tears; and the question whether in the end Avigdor Kahalani, rightful owner of the rare Bravery Medal, did more good or harm to his country, shall remain open.

(Published October 7th in the Hebrew blog, written and translated by Yossi Gurvitz. Avigdor Kahalani is a former Brigadier General [Tat Aluf] in the IDF, who played a major part in the victory over the Syrian forces in the Yom Kippur War. His later military career is, to be charitable, less noteworthy; his political career was an unmitigated disaster).

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4 responses to “Circling the Schools with Tanks

  1. I feel so deeply disturbed. The US and Israel run on parallel tracks towards militaristic destruction. Nero fiddles, Rome burns.

    The whole notion of military (and also law enforcement in the US) and their lives meaning more than the rest of us sickens me.

    The very fact that the military in either country exists the way it does shows a distinct lack of respect for any lives.

    And then tie in the strike and labor issues… as my bubbe would say; “what a shanda!”.

  2. Welcome back.

    As an Israeli blogger I admire, Na’ama Carmi, is fond of saying: There can’t be a military uprising in Israel, since no one will object.

    I think you’re not there yet, and I think that once you either impeach Bush or reelect a new president, this period will be over. As I’ve said before, American history moves in circles; you have those episodes every 30-50 years. Israeli history, however, is a trajectory.

  3. Found your blog through FranIAm.

    Oh dear, this is disturbing. I often wonder why every civilization seems to choose militarism as its center. These societies cling to the military as a means to stay alive and in power forever (as if that’s even possible!), yet they always end up getting the exact opposite–war, destruction, ruin.

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