Monthly Archives: October 2006

“We Acted Like the Nazis”: Kfar Qassem, Israel’s Babi Yar

At about half past six in the evening of on October 29th, 1956, the last vehicle arrived at the Kafr Qassem junction. It was a truck. Fourteen women and girls rode in it, with four men and boys. Squad commander Shalom Ofer stopped the truck, but the passengers – laborers returning from their day’s work – refused to step out. They had noticed the twenty-five bodies already strewn around the junction.

The driver soothed the women, put a ladder up against the back of the truck and helped them climb down. Ofer ordered the passengers and driver to line up. Then he returned to his men, ordered them to point their guns and gave the order: “mow them down!”

Every one of the forty-nine victims killed in incidents around Kafr Qassem that evening was a citizen of Israel. The youngest victim was only four; the oldest, sixty-six. The site of the massacre was later renamed “Tzomet Kessem”. This is Hebrew for “Magic Junction”.

History would pinpoint this to be a defining moment for the Israeli army.

It would be later that evening that Israel would attack Egypt, in an operation eventually known as the Suez War. Israel’s attack was coordinated with Britain and France, and its goal was to bring about the collapse of Gamal Nasser’s regime. Britain and France were to take back the Suez Canal, which had been nationalized by Nasser; Israel’s prize would be the Sinai Peninsula.

Fearful of Arab response to this aggression, Israel applied powers it had been using for the 18 years of its existence, when its Arab citizens were subject to military rule. A decision was taken to impose a curfew, to make squash any possibility of an uprising. Arab towns were already subject to night curfews as of 9 pm, but that night the curfew was pushed forward to 5 pm and orders were given to shoot curfew-breakers on sight. This posed a problem: what was to be done with the villagers who would return from work, and would not be aware that the curfew was starting earlier?

Regiment commander Isaskhar Shadmi had no qualms about this. “Allah yerachmo, a phrase in Arabic – may God have mercy on them – was his answer.

Although a murderous order was given, most officers and soldiers under Shadmi’s command chose not to carry it out. They had options, and they exercised these options to carry out their task – imposing a curfew – without perpetrating a massacre.

But one platoon, led by Gavriel Dahan, who would change his name to Dagan after being paroled and become the Israel Bonds representative to France, chose otherwise.

Dahan rounded up his men and instructed them as follows: they were to enforce a curfew between 5 pm and 6 am. they were forbidden to enter the houses of the village; they were to shoot and kill any person they saw after 5 pm. Dahan made the argument to the soldiers that when they kill a person outside of a building they are only obeying orders, and for that reason it is merely killing – which is a soldier’s duty. If they were to enter the houses and kill the residents, that would be a murder. It was thus that Dahan laid out the ground rules for the evening’s activity.

Thereafter, Dahan split his men into squads. One squad, which was led by Ofer, was positioned at the only road into the village. Others were positioned at other spots, and Dahan himself patrolled in a jeep, with three more of his men. This patrol force killed four people, including a six year old boy and a fifteen year old.

During his trial Ofer explained that “We operated liked the Nazis”, referring to the mechanical obedience and disregard for human sentiment. This was not an attitude one would expect in an Israeli soldier carrying out policing activities in his own country, without being in any danger whatsoever. So what happened? The answer lies, perhaps, in consideration of the Nazis themselves.

According to Christopher Browning’s aptly named book, Ordinary Men, about 20% of the Nazi’s 101st Police Brigade did their best to avoid tasks involving massacre; 70% of the men obeyed the order because of their adherence to value of camaraderie: they did not want to leave the loathsome task to their friends.

And about 10% of the members of 101 were sadists, who actually enjoyed their job and volunteered to do them, people who ventured on them again and again with a glimmer in their eyes. They had the perfect excuse to pacify any normative qualms: they had been following orders. When this excuse fell away during trials, justifications were made: the victims had tried to escape and so, had to be shot. Courts have found this to be untrue.

But this is not the whole story. Dahan and Ofer needed another excuse. An ordinary person doesn’t go around killing civilians – he needs a reason to do so. An order is far from being sufficient when it comes to killing a four year old girl. The reason, however, was easily found and is still in the air to this day.

When the Germans murdered Jews, Slavs, Gypsies and others, they perceived them to be enemies. Unarmed enemies of the race, operating deviously behind the scenes. The more these people were mistreated, the greater the fear of them: German society knew that it was an iniquitous society. Rather than internalizing this information, it externalized it. In the last months of the war on the eastern front, German soldiers fought with desperate savagery, because they knew how high a price their country would have to pay for the crimes they had committed, if there was indeed justice in the world.

A similar myth was developing in Israel at the time. The mass expulsions in 1948 significantly reduced its Arab population. As to those who remained, the more Israel persecuted them, confiscated their lands, imposed night curfews on them, systematically damaged their livelihoods, demeaned them, and made them live under military rule for 18 years, the more Israel also feared them. This brought forth the myth that Israel’s Arabs were “a fifth column”, waiting anxiously for the opportunity to join an external military force.

This was not grounded in fact. The vast majority of Israel’s Arabs – more than 99% of them – were not and have never been involved in any form of hostile activity. Those fears arose with a special intensity on that October night in 1956, when Israel ventured into its second war. Would the uprising come now?

And so, a four year old girl was shot and killed.

Israel’s government dealt with the issue by unsuccessfully concealing it, trying to shift the blame from the army to the Border Patrol, and finally creating a token “forgiveness” ceremony in Kafr Qassem itself – and then sweeping the entire story under the carpet. The date of the massacre was not commemorated in any official way, and attempts by ministers of education to include it in the official calendar or history of Israel were met with a public outcry.

The criminals were brought to trial before Justice Halevi, who had tried other weighty matters, such as the first Jewish underground (the Tzrifin gang). After defining what constitutes a manifestly illegal order – “a criminality that stabs the eye and causes the heart to rebel – that is the measure of “manifest” illegality that is required in order to cancel the soldier’s duty to obey and place upon him the criminal liability for his actions” – Justice Haelvi sentenced the perpetrators to relatively short jail terms. They were all paroled secretly, within less than a year. The Ben Gurion regime quietly helped them to find jobs, which at the time was unheard of for convicted criminals. Shadmi, an officer of some repute, was tried, found guilty, and for the death of over 40 human beings was fined the sum of one penny.

Subsequent massacres perpetrated by Jews upon Arabs, such as the events of February 1994, when Barukh Goldstein killed 29 worshipers in the Ibrahimi shrine in Hebron, and in May 1990, when Ami Popper’s shot of seven unarmed Arab day laborers in Rishon Letziyon, serve to underline the prevalence of the fear of such an uprising.

Fifty years later, in Israel in 2006, killing an unarmed thirteen year old girl by an entire company of the Israeli army does not “stab the heart”, does not “cause the eye to rebel”. The company commander responsible for her death was indicted for abusing her corpse – and acquitted. No charge was demanded for the blood of Ayman Al Hams, who was running for her life, described on the military communication network as “a little girl, scared to death”. The company commander, heard over the radio saying “We have confirmed the killing” and ordering his men to “shoot anyone you see, even three-years-old girls”, was acquitted of any wrongdoing in the killing, and has actually sued for compensation, claiming injurious libel.

Fifty years later, military orders remain a supreme value in Israel, beyond considerations of human life. Fifty years later, a majority of the Jewish public feels that the Arab citizens should be expelled from the country, and that the requisite price should be paid, a price which – just like in 1947-49, would be a massacre. Fifty years later, in Israel in 2006, the eye has long since turned blind, and the heart has been seared and blackened beyond any capacity for compassion.

(This is a shortened an updated translation of an article published in Nana News on 29 October 2006. Translation: Dena Bugel-Shunra).

Advertisements

The Supports of Enslavement

Anyone seeking their daily dose of primitive opinion in the news, has long since discovered they can count on Member of Knesset Nissim Ze’ev (of Shas, naturally). And indeed, the man who brought us the “homoists” slur, does not let us down. In an article he wrote this week about the Katsav scandal he mentioned the fact that under Halacha – Jewish law – not one of the women complaining about his sexual misconduct was raped. This, he explains, is due to the fact that not one of them screamed. And anyone who did not scream, was not raped, and quite possibly may have enjoyed herself.

Ze’ev – who has gone on the record about violence against women “not being a catastrophe” – is not your run of the mill ignoramus. Moreover, he is one of the people who will determine if Katsav will be indicted. All talk of charging Katsav with criminal behavior are hot air, because there is no legal possibility of indicting him while he is in office. The most that could happen would be that the Attorney General would tell the Knesset that he feels an indictment should be made. Only than can the Knesset ask itself if it is appropriate to depose the president, and the indictment stage can be reached only if ninety members of Knesset support this. This is a level of support that has no equivalent in Israel’s code of law.

In other words, Katsav needs only thirty-one Members of Knesset to vote against his deposition, or even to abstain or just fail to show up at the plenum. Ze’ev, and the other members of Shas, are already in his pocket. He needs another twenty votes, and he will find them. We are used to hearing Katsav’s retinue of advocates – his brother, his attorneys, his mother – and they are not truly harmful. It is hardly to be expected in Israel, which is a country of tribal sentiment, that a brother would denounce his own brother. The attorneys are on his payroll – they would have represented the complainants just as happily, with just as much ardor.

But Katsav has rather a lot of supporters. Surveys show them to include about one third of the population. These supporters are the truly repulsive factor.

Sukkot Surprise

When Katsav declared that he would open his hospitality tabernacle as usual, during Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, snorts and snickers resounded among the press. They guessed that the tabernacle would be attended only by Katsav, his relatives and investigators, and the press. Much to their surprise, the crowd was 3,000 strong that day. Katsav felt rightly that he has popular support.

So who came to visit him? The descriptions are unpleasant, but unmistakable. Most of the attendants were older men; a crushing majority wore orthodox yarmulka’s or were “traditional”; most of them were from the ethnic groups deriving from Arab countries. In other words, groups whose culture sees the liberated woman as a distorted Western idea.

And they constitute – according to surveys – about one third of the Israeli public. They think that “all women are sluts”. They believe – as Ze’ev does – in the values of the seventh century BCE, and that if a woman doesn’t scream, she is not being raped. They see no problem in sexual relationships between an employer and employee, and they do not understand (or pretend not to understand) why a woman might prefer not to speak up about being raped.

They, and people like them, are that reason.

A Woman Is Purchased In Three Ways

The perception that women have equal rights is a modern one, and it was attained through struggle and spilled blood. Emily Davidson leapt before the king of Britain’s horse in the 1913 Derby, demanding women’s suffrage. She was trampled and died, but the right for which she gave her life was partially attained only five years thereafter, and fully attained fifteen years after that. It seems that human struggles succeed only if they are attended by human sacrifice.

But the years before Davidson’s sacrifice and their toxic perceptions are effective to this day. Aristotle thought that a woman has only half the soul of a man, as does a slave; this understanding is enshrined to this day in the Jewish morning prayers: “blessed is He who did not make me a woman” and “blessed is He who did not make me a slave”.

Although the ancient Greeks and Romans saw women to be independent – if limited – entities, who could not (for example) be married off against their will, the Jews, like other oriental nations, saw woman as property.

“A woman is purchased in three ways: by coin, by deed, and by intercourse” states the Talmud (Kidushin, I:1). Purchased: the woman is a chattel – and, indeed, the same chapter deals with the purchase of cattle. Initially she is her father’s chattel, and he is entitled by Halachic law to sell her into slavery; thereafter she is the chattel of her husband. “Women have light minds,” the Talmudic decree echoed through the generations. “A person who teaches his daughter the Torah is deemed to have taught her pointlessness”. Bang. There went women’s education.

Disastrously, the Jewish position on women became enshrined when Christianity ascended into prominence (“be submissive to your own husbands” enjoined Peter, in a foundational text in the New Testament) and vanquished the slow improvement achieved over centuries by the women of the Roman empire. Polygamy, which was specifically prohibited in the Roman empire, was common among Jews, and the Jews of Ashkenaz (a region encompassing Northern and Western Europe) forbade it only around 1000 C.E., by means of a ban imposed by Rabbi Gershom. The Jews of the Moslem world forbade it only far later, and the Jews of Yemen never actually did prohibit polygamy. Israeli case law acknowledges this right of Jewish Yemeni males.

The Jewish view was that women were banes: “the more women, the more witchcraft” states the Talmud (Avot, 2:8), and indicated that that Great Rabbi Shimon Ben Shatah hung eighty witches in Ashkelon [Sanhedrin, 46:A] Women were perceived as temptresses, distracting mankind. In general, it was better “not to speak much with a woman”.[Avot 1:5]

And as a woman is a chattel, and perhaps a dangerous one, rape is conceived in Jewish Halachic law as damage to chattel. A husband is entitled to force sexual relations on his wife; this does not constitute rape. And a woman who was raped and refrained from shouting, even if this was for fear of her life, “is prohibited [from intercourse with] her husband and her rapist”. In other words, she is punished for being raped by being divorced.

A man who has raped an unbetrothed young woman can choose to marry her. He can also choose to make a payment in lieu of that – to her father, of course. A man who has purchased a woman can decide not to release her, not to grant her a divorce, and Jewish – and Israeli! – law will accept that. People generally imagine that such laws exist only in Pakistan. But no – these laws are alive and well in Israel.

Treacherous Liberation

It has become customary, in Liberal circles, to attack feminism. And indeed, some of its theoreticians (including the questionable genius who coined the phrase “we are all lesbian”) have gone to ridiculous extremes. It is customary to say that such extremes are unnecessary. But this is an arrogant thought, typical of those who never leave the boundaries of certain urbane sections around Tel Aviv.

Feminists in Western countries still have work to do, but in Israel they face an almost impossible task. A large part of the public – if not an actual majority of Israelis – come from cultures where women’s liberation, equality, and rights were unheard of before their arrival in Israel. A large swath of the public accepts the principles of such liberation only pro forma, only because it is a legal duty – a duty which, like the equality of Israel’s Arab citizens, like the equal rights of homosexuals, evokes bitterness and resistance. Most of the Israeli public has not yet freed itself from the poison fumes of Halachaic outlook.

Approximately one third of the Israeli public believes that a woman cannot actually be raped. If she is raped outside, by a stranger, they presume that she wore seductive clothing. If sex was forced on her by an employer than she must have agreed to it – because if she failed to scream, it is proof that she agreed. If she lodges a complaint, it is libel. Large sections of the public cannot conceive of the possibility of rape by a woman’s lawful husband. He’s her husband, isn’t he? The Hebrew word for “husband” means “owner”.

Did Katsav rape one or more of his staff members? The court may perhaps decide on this question, if the Knesset is agreeable and if Katsav doesn’t escape the country at the last moment. But Katsav is just a symptom. His supporters are the real problem. And solving this problem will take much, much more than one indictment.

(This column is dedicated to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who taught us all about courage.)

(The Knesset did not remove President Katsav from office – most of the members of the committee dealing with the issue chose to absent themselves. Katsav has lately agreed to a controversial plea bargain, by which he will not be charged with rape but rather with sexual misconduct; the issue is currently debated by the Supreme Court. This column appeared in Nana News on 20 October 2006. Translation: Dena Bugel-Shunra, Yossi Gurvitz)

Lieberman – As Israel Deserves

An Arab woman who lives in the northern town of Tarshicha was not hired by an Israeli company because she is not Jewish. The express position of the local Supersol grocery store chain is they employ only Jews. Other citizens of the country? Not their problem. They won’t be hired.

If the case were reversed – say, a Jewish woman were not hired for an American store, whose owner employs only Christians – there would be a public outcry: Anti-Semitism! Everyone hates us! The nation would crumple up in its favorite posture of self-pity and bemoan its bitter fate.

One could expect, then, that an Israeli store showing a sign saying “entrance for Jews only” would be boycotted, that its name would be reviled, and that angry protestors would picket it around the clock. But no. That sort of thing would happen in America. In Israel the response was one of heated support. “Don’t give the Arabs salaries!” shouted one website response; “They’re right to have done that!” hollered another, in equally poor Hebrew.

No survey has been done on this to date, but other surveys demonstrate that most of the Jewish public abhors Israel’s Arab citizens and refuses to employ them, to live near them, and has generally internalized the Judeo-Nazi values of Kahane’s cohorts. When Baron De Rothschild rejected Herzl’s appeal for support of Zionism, this was exactly what he warned against: a Jewish state would bring into practical application the misanthropy embedded in Judaism, and its residents would soon harass the non-Jews.

Such a state swiftly loses its right to exist. This week another important step was taken, which further undermines this right.

The Mob Wants A Dictator

Avigdor Lieberman will presumably join the Israeli government in the near future. He so wants to be in the government that he will make do with only one portfolio. Rumors say that Yvette (as the Russian émigré is still called by his friends) will have a special portfolio put together for him: the Ministry of Strategic Threats. The man who has gone on the record with threats to bomb Teheran and the Egyptian Assuan dam with nuclear weapons – attacks that would lead to the death of millions of innocent Iranians and Egyptian farmers – will now man one of the most senior positions in the security system. What will that do to Israel’s position in the world, and especially in the Arab world? Strengthen it, perhaps?

But hey – we elected him. His party got eleven seats in the Knesset and surveys show that he is likely to get twenty seats in the next elections. More than 50% of surveyed Israeli Jews support his participation in the Government. What are his achievements/ Never mind, he threatens and talks tough.

His plan for a “presidential regime” is built not on the Jeffersonian model but on the Putinian one. In his model there would be no parliamentary supervision of the president, and his “cabinet of professionals” will not require authorization by the Knesset. Since the president will be the one who fills cabinet level positions, who can dispute his claim that his brother, for example, is worthy of being a minister? After all, it worked well for Cuba. Even in the United States of America we saw President Kennedy appointing his brother to the position of Attorney General. When the ministers are entirely subordinate to the president, when the collective accountability of the government disappears, when the parliament has no ability to influence government – who will stand between Avigdor Lieberman and his dream of waging eternal war?

Down the Roads Trodden By Rhodesia And South Africa

International acceptance of Israel’s existence stands at its very foundation. Israel is swiftly eroding the last vestiges of its legitimacy, and including Avigdor Lieberman in the government – not to mention, having his party win an election – would topple the last claim by Israel to being a democratic country.

The nationalists among us rely on the strength of the Israeli military. In this summer’s war we saw the true value of that strength: generals who stay away from the front, regiment commanders who hide behind plasma screens, soldiers forced to loot in order to survive after the collapse of the logistical system. And this was only a sample taste: the enemy was a militia, not an army.

The world has already seen racist countries who relied on their military might. There was Rhodesia, the white man’s country in the heart of Africa, which fought well for more than a decade and a half – the Rhodesian army was considered to be the best in the world, at the time. It was a very dirty war it fought against the dark-skinned majority. In 1976 President Ford decided that the existence of Rhodesia was getting in the way of his campaign – he lusted in vain after the African-American votes – and Rhodesia was forced to hold a plebiscite that included its brown residents. Three years later the country fell apart. It is called Zimbabwe today.

Rhodesia’s closest ally, South Africa, held on for another eighteen years. In 1994 it was forced to hold democratic elections, and the rule of Apartheid – which may be the best known word of Afrikaans derivation besides commando – ceased to exist. Rhodesia and South Africa, two close allies of Israel (sources outside of Israel claim that Israel held its nuclear testing programs in South Africa), ceased to exist, despite their superior military power, because they had no international legitimacy. That was not too long ago. South Africa even had nuclear weapons. They did not help it.

Israel relies on the power of the United States, but that power is close to the breaking point – the American military is close to collapse, and the Bush administration has left the United States entirely devoid of any moral capital. The cycles of American history would tend to indicate that following the Iraqi adventure, we will see a period of withdrawn separatism. Israel simply isn’t worth all that trouble; A non-democratic Israel even less so.

What a time to bring Lieberman into the government. What a time to turn Judeo-Nazism and its dictatorship into the aspect Israel shows the world. What a time to follow our African pathfinders into history’s slop pail. A society which elects Lieberman to be its leader, which makes racism its slogan and discrimination its life’s breath – such a society indeed has lost its right to exist.

(Note: this Nana News article was, obviously, written before Avigdor Libermann became minister – in 15 October 2006. Translation: Dena Bugel-Shunra).