Permission to killBy Yitzhak Laor, 10/08/2000
On Sunday, November 30, 1972, British paratroops attempted to prevent a march for human rights in the Northern Ireland city of Derry on the basis of a judicial order making the Catholic march illegal. That Sunday ended in the massacre of 14 demonstrators. Bloody Sunday will never be erased from the blood-drenched history of the Anglo-Irish struggle. The British are still studying the events that took place that day in Derry's working-class neighborhoods. The massacre of Palestinians in recent days will be with us for many years, not only because it won the full backing of the media - Israel Television led the favorable coverage, but the entire Israeli press followed in the footsteps of the holiday-eve television reports. The old instincts came into play: criticism of the Israel Defense Forces is prohibited, because the IDF - God - acted this time as well.
The IDF did not defend Israel. Israel was not in danger. Permission to kill has become "self-evident" even when it comes to defending the thorn-in-the-side settlement of Netzarim. It is permissible to kill a child in the arms of his father and to afterward deny that killing "because he had no reason to be there." It is permissible to shoot missiles at demonstrators, because at stake is not just defense of the state or its citizens, but a "principle": one does not surrender to violence. It is permissible to use violence to make others surrender. And as usual, in summing up the entire event, human life is important only when the human is not Arab.
The Israeli "self-evident" proposition worked overtime. The masses of Palestinian demonstrators had the privilege to be shot at with live ammunition and earned strong denunciations from the entire Israeli media. "What can you do?" as if it were self-evident that live ammunition be used to end such a struggle, as if it were obvious that "we are all united" in demanding those liters of blood.
In exactly the same way, the closure of roads from Lake Kinneret to the center of the country gave the right to treat the country's Arab citizens as if they were children in the heart of the colonial wilderness of the end of the 19th century, as if we had not seen the television footage of truck and taxi drivers in Europe blocking roads on the Continent to the point of totally paralyzing the economy, without a single shot being fired. The press and the establishment stood up for the "policeman of the Arabs," Police Major-General Alik Ron. In any civilized country he would have been forced out long ago, if only for his racist statements about the mayor of Umm al Fahm and head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Ra'ed Salah: "Sheikh Ra'ed has a fertile, Middle Eastern imagination."
But one can look for the background to the great massacre of these terrible Days of Awe in the place where the great silence of the media and the academic establishment can always be found: the main thing is who is governing us when such things occur. If Benjamin Netanyahu were prime minister now, we would have already heard cries to the heavens, or at least some tough questions. This war is being waged by the government of Prime Minister Ehud Barak, "our" government, of "the left." And so, for the sake of peace of course, since after all everything is for the sake of peace, everything is permitted.
The signal was given and the ground prepared for this horror after the collapse of the Camp David talks. Out-and-out "doves" gave interviews and wrote articles: Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestinian Authority, betrayed them, Heaven forbid. They always wanted peace, they paid a heavy price for peace, and now, when the Palestinians could get from them the best peace that could be given to them (that is, without quarreling with the settlers, without causing a "rift within the people," without dissolving the coalition, without giving up the "dreams of sanctity" that were born in the five historical minutes that preceded the negotiations), Arafat - that is, the Palestinian people - turns his back on them, the cooing doves, and listens to the yearning of his hard-pressed people, without water or work, crowded between bypass roads and sanctified settlements, because everyone knows that "Beit El is the eyes of the country," or whatever organ it is the latest trite metaphor.
How easy it is to beat your breast in contrition this Yom Kippur, when the fist lands on the chest of your neighbor, Arafat or Ariel Sharon. And you, your hands did not spill this blood, your hands did not fire missiles at demonstrators, your voice did not denounce.