19 January 2016

Left, right, left, right: two tails that wag the dog

Warning: this is a long post about our extreme left and right and about the two tearing the nation, troubled as it is, apart. While the said nation's leaders diligently pursue the policy of doing nothing in either direction, preferring the grim status quo to any risk taking. Thus providing fertile ground for the extremists to do what they do best: provoke and incite.

Thankfully, due to circumstances out of my control, I didn't post earlier anything on the subject of BtS (Breaking the Silence). Thankfully, because during the last month or so more input came in and I had some time to digest it.

But first things first and let's start with a disclaimer: I've always resented the curious mix of matters military and human morality standards. The whole business of IDF or any other army contending for the title of "the most moral army in the world" smells false to me, being a clumsy attempt to apply a dress that is simply meant for somebody (something) else. Army is not about morality or justice, and while its goal - to defend - could be considered moral, the means used don't have much to do with morality, the opposite is true. Killing and subjugating people could be regulated by rules created by the people for their army, but "moral army" is still an oxymoron. With all due respect to professor Asa Kasher.

And the second disclaimer: as an ex-soldier, part of my military service was (unhappily) spent in various activities in the Judea and Samaria. Just as a citizen who happens to observe reprehensible behavior of a small part of his brethren, I happened to observe such behavior on part of (very few) IDF soldiers toward the Palestinians. IDF is just a representative part of population, no better and no worse than the latter. As any other army, I gather, with an added strain of being forced to do the work police would be much better suited to perform in the occupied territories. Any soldier who denies that cases like these occur is either deaf and blind or exceptionally lucky - if you believe in luck.


Some years ago, with the inception of BtS as a Hebrew-speaking initiative, aimed at reducing the unruly and/or unlawful behavior of IDF soldiers, I was rather pleased with the idea. Working hand in hand with the military police, military AG and the commanders in the field, such outfit could have brought if not a stop, at least a proper treatment and reduction of such behavior. Or so it seemed at the time. Unfortunately, with time the expectations were not exactly matched by reality. First of all, BtS folks got a taste for publicity, adding English to their site, thus securing more exposure... just a second, exposure to what? Justice? Morality? Hardly, mostly publicity. Surprisingly or not (Israelis speak almost all languages), articles in Dutch* appear as well. One naturally asks oneself: why a group whose declared purpose is to improve IDF's behavior, would want the international fame and glory? Especially since anyone could predict the negative impact of that fame on the relationship with IDF, the government and, indeed, with the general population... The trend of "internationalization" doesn't stop with the Internet site, BtS is taking the show on the road quite successfully as well:

BtS has been part of at least 50 events in Europe, the U.S., Canada, Australia, and South Africa” in the past three years and the group’s work is, either directly or via third parties, “almost entirely funded by European governments.
But, publicity hungry or not, BtS continued to provide raw material, and whether you like them or not, you have to keep your ears open even to messages you don't like. As long as you believe the messenger. And here is precisely where I (like a lot of others, I guess) got an unpleasant shock.

A short introduction to the following clip: Amit Deri, a reservist officer, was incensed by some of the stories told by BtS and, as part of his private initiative, recorded a few episodes where one Avner Gvaryahu (the Director of Public Outreach for BtS in the past) leads a group of foreign tourists via various sites in in the Judea and Samaria, providing some fascinating stories, allegedly from his own military past. Exaggerated hearsay spiced by lies and/or pure inventions all of that. You can skip the Hebrew parts of the clip, watch only the recordings of the "tours", where English is used by Avner Gvaryahu.

The ex-comrades from Mr Gvaryahu's unit responded to his amazing performance as one in this (unfortunately Hebrew only) recording. I am proud to notice that not a single one used incendiary or simply unparliamentary expressions toward their subject. A brief of their response could be read here.

I was told that BtS distanced itself from the above performance of Avner Gvaryahu, however I couldn't find a trace of it in a public forum. Moreover, Gvaryahu's name proudly appears on various pages of BtS' site even today, after his travesty of "guided tours" became public. And when one of the leading members of BtS behaves as he does, what attitude could be expected from Israeli public opinion of the whole BtS business? "Business" is the fitting term now... More on BtS in an excellent review by Petra Marquardt-Bigman.

And recently the nation got another unpleasant shock from the extreme left, when the ugly case of an ugly man, Ezra Nawi, has clearly demonstrated that the extreme fringe of the anti-Zionist left has lost the last vestiges of morality in the pursuit of its ideological objectives. However, this fringe hasn't lost its support from the usual crowd of Haaretz irregulars and opinion makers.


And, while we here in Israel are being consoled by some rare rays of light, such as this publicly displayed favorable opinion of the leading military experts, the other (opposite?) side of the political map is not sitting still.

And I don't mean the wretched NGO transparency bill, nor do I care whether it is modeled on existing US law or on its Russian counterpart. Our Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, while a worthy subject for the issue of unbridled lawmaking activism, hardly burdened by too much thinking, is not on the agenda of this post.

I have in mind other dangerous ideological/criminal groups that, by their mere existence, not to mention activities, are busily digging under the democratic foundation of this nation. What started as a series of small acts of vandalism by "Price Tag", initially ignored by our security branches and treated too lightly by the police and the courts, became a well organized, well spread organization, ready to turn a page from petty vandalism to hateful acts of arson and murder, as in Duma arson. Where the left, as in case of Ezra Nawi, prefers to leave the killing to the other party, the brainwashed and fanatic followers of a few rabbis are ready to destroy and kill, believing in the celestial mandate.

This new wave of Jewish extremists is very well organized, their clandestine branch, based on small cells of fanatics, is a very tough nut to crack for our security organs. Their ideological leadership, the one responsible for brainwashing of easily flammable youth, is well protected by the laws and regulations of democracy they despise so much. Ironically or not, like everywhere else in the world, the anti-democratic extremists' groups learn perfectly well how to use the soft belly of democracy they aim to overthrow.

Thus the ideologists don't bother to hide their hateful views, knowing that there is not much the government could do about it, no matter how racist or anti-democratic their propaganda became.

Meir Ettinger, seen escorted by two cops in the picture above, is a specimen of the ideological branch. I doubt that the state will find enough evidence to link him to the Duma crime, he is more of a "thinker", inspiring the murderous actions of his followers. In one, quite important aspect, Ettinger and his likes might be even more dangerous to the well being of the state than his illustrious grandfather, Meir Kahane: where the latter considered himself a Zionist, Ettinger is as anti-Israeli as they come, openly promoting destruction of the Zionist state as his goal:
"The idea of the revolt is very simple," Ettinger wrote in his blog. "The State of Israel has many 'weak points', subjects people tiptoe around so as not to cause riots. What we will do is simply 'spark' all these powder kegs, all the questions and contradictions between Judaism and democracy. Between the Jewish character and the secular character, without fearing the consequences. Disrupting the ability to govern the country. That's the main part of the revolt's 'vort' (word) to break the rules and the entire status quo.
And more... whether he was directly involved in the Duma arson or not, the arsonists have done his bidding. Just like Hamas, the new generation of Sicarii thrives on blood and violence, sowing terror and unrest to reach their goals.

The infamous celebration of the Duma murders during a wedding, recorded and published some time ago, shows how widespread and shameless the right-wing extremism has become.

And while the "Price Tag" and related extremist gangs act on the fringe of the society, right wing outfits similar to Im Tirzu, while ostensibly deploring violence and claiming to be Zionist, use incendiary language as a matter of course. Their recent response to the (indeed deplorable) lies of described above BtS was nothing if not baying for blood. And, seeing how the extremist fringe is actively seeking targets for their own kind of righteousness, this call for blood might be answered quite soon.

The discourse of hatred

And of course, once incendiary language was mentioned, one should award points to both sides. But this is already done by Ben-Dror Yemini in his piece The discourse of hatred: A victory for marginal groups.
This is a warning call: Something bad is happening to us. The margins are taking over the public discourse, turning it into a discourse of hatred. The Israeli public is not there, but it's being dragged there. Israel has a sane majority, a huge majority, but instead of the Knesset presenting a model for a practical discussion, instead of keeping its distance from the violent discourse - it has moved closer to it.
Something bad is happening to us indeed.

But who is taking the challenge up?

(*) Not too surprising: Dutch folks appear in the list of the donating outfits. According to this source, "One Dutch organization demanded Breaking the Silence provide at least 90 testimonies of IDF soldiers and to publish what was described as 'The Occupation Encyclopedia'."