"I Came, I Saw, I Destroyed!"
By Uri Avnery
16/03/08 "ICH" --- WHAT HAPPENED this week is so infuriating, so
impertinent, that it stands out even in our familiar landscape
of governmental irresponsibility.
On the near horizon, a de facto suspension of hostilities was
taking shape. The Egyptians had made great efforts to turn it
into an official cease-fire. The flame was already burning
visibly lower. The launching of Qassams and Grads from the Gaza
Strip into Israel had fallen from dozens a day to two or three.
And then something happened that turned the flame up high again:
undercover soldiers of the Israeli army killed four Palestinians
militants in Bethlehem. A fifth was killed in a village near
THE MODUS OPERANDI left no doubt about the intention.
As usual, the official version was mendacious. (When the army
spokesman speaks the truth, he is ashamed and immediately
hurries on to the next lie.) The four, it was said, drew their
weapons and endangered the life of the soldiers, who only wanted
to arrest them, so they were compelled to open fire.
Anyone with half a brain knows that this is a lie. The four were
in a small car on the main street of Bethlehem, the road that
has joined Jerusalem and Hebron since British (or Turkish)
times. They were indeed armed, but they had no chance at all of
drawing their weapons. The car was simply sprayed with dozens of
That was not an attempt to make an arrest. That was an
execution, pure and simple, one of those summary executions in
which the Shin Bet fulfils the roles of prosecutor, judge and
This time no effort was even made to pretend that the four were
about to carry out a murderous attack. It was not claimed, for
example, that they had anything to do with last week's attack on
the Mercaz Harav seminary, the flagship of the settlers' fleet.
Actually, no such pretense could be put forward, because the
most important of the four had recently given interviews to the
Israeli media and announced that he was availing himself of the
Israeli "pardon scheme" - a Shin Bet program under which
"wanted" militants give up their arms and undertake to cease
resistance to the occupation. He was also a candidate in the
last Palestinian elections.
If so, why where they killed? The Shin Bet did not hide the
reason: two of the four had participated in attacks in 2001 in
which Israelis were killed.
"Our long arm will get them even years later," Ehud Barak
boasted on TV, "we shall get everyone with Jewish blood on his
SIMPLY PUT: The Defense Minister and his men endangered today's
cease-fire in order to avenge something that happened seven
It was obvious to all that the killing of Islamic Jihad
militants in Bethlehem would cause the renewal of the Qassam
launchings on Sderot. And so it happened.
The effect of a Qassam rocket is completely unpredictable. For
the residents of Sderot, this is a kind of Israeli Roulette -
the rocket may fall in an empty field, it may fall on a
building, sometimes it kills people.
In other words, according to Barak himself, he was ready to risk
Jewish lives today in order to take revenge on persons who may
perhaps have shed blood years ago and have since given up their
The emphasis is on the word "Jewish". In his statement, Barak
took care not to speak about persons "with blood on their
hands", but about those "with Jewish blood on their hands".
Jewish blood, of course, is quite different from any other
blood. And indeed, there is no person in the Israeli leadership
with so much blood on his hands as him. Not abstract blood, not
metaphorical blood, but very real red blood. In the course of
his military service, Barak has personally killed quite a number
of Arabs. Whoever shakes his hand - from Condoleezza Rice to
this week's honored guest, Angela Merkel - is shaking a hand
with blood on it.
THE BETHLEHEM killing raises a number of hard questions, but
with very few exceptions, the media did not voice them. They
shirk their duty, as usual when it concerns "security" problems.
Real journalists in a real democratic state would have asked the
(a) Who was it who decided on the executions in Bethlehem - Ehud
Olmert? Ehud Barak? The Shin Bet? All of them? None of them?
(b) Did the decision-makers understand that by condemning the
militants in Bethlehem to death, they were also condemning to
death any residents of Sderot or Ashkelon who might be killed by
the rockets launched in revenge?
(c) Did they understand that they were also boxing the ears of
Mahmoud Abbas, whose security forces, which in theory are in
charge of Bethlehem, would be accused of collaborating with the
(d) Was the real aim of the action to undermine the cease-fire
that had come about in practice in the Gaza Strip (and the
reality of which was official denied both by Olmert and Barak,
even while the number of rockets launched fell from dozens a day
to just two or three?)
(e) Does the Israeli government generally object to a cease-fire
that would free Sderot and Ashkelon from the threat of the
(f) If so, why?
The media did not demand that Olmert and Barak expose to the
public the considerations that led them to adopt this decision,
which concerns every person in Israel. And no wonder. These are,
after all, the same media that danced for joy when the same
government started an ill-considered and superfluous war in
Lebanon. They are also the same media that kept silent, this
week, when the government decided to hit the freedom of the
press and to boycott the Aljazeera TV network, as punishment for
showing babies killed during the Israeli army's recent incursion
But for two or three courageous journalists with an independent
all our written and broadcast media march in lockstep, like a
Prussian regiment on parade, when the word "security" is
(This phenomenon was exposed this week in CounterPunch by a
journalist named Yonatan Mendel, a former employee of the
popular Israeli web-site Walla. He pointed out that all the
media, from the Channel 1 news program to the Haaretz news
pages, as if by order, voluntarily use exactly the same slanted
terminology: the Israeli army confirms and the Palestinians
claim, Jews are murdered while Palestinians are killed or find
their death, Jews are abducted while Arabs are arrested, the
Israeli army always responds while the Palestinians always
attack, the Jews are soldiers while Arabs are terrorists or just
murderers, the Israeli army always hits high-ranking terrorists
and never low-ranking terrorists, men and women suffering from
shock are always Jews, never Arabs. And, as we said, people with
blood on their hands are always Arabs, never-ever Jews. This, by
the way, also goes for much of the foreign coverage of events
WHEN THE GOVERNMENT does not disclose its intentions, we have no
choice but to deduce its intentions from its actions. That is a
judicial rule: when a person does something with a foreseeable
result, it is assumed that he did it in order to obtain this
The government which decided on the killing in Bethlehem
undoubtedly intended to torpedo the cease-fire.
Why does it want to do so?
There are several possible kinds of cease-fire. The most simple
is the cessation of hostilities on the Gaza Strip border. No
Qassams, Grads and mortar shells on the one side, no targeted
assassinations, bombardments, shelling and incursion on the
It is known that the army objects to that. They want to be free
to "liquidate" from the air and raid on the ground. They want a
A limited cease-fire is impossible. Hamas cannot agree to it, as
long as the blockade cuts the Strip off on all sides and turn
life there into hell - not enough medicines, not enough food,
the seriously ill cannot reach appropriate hospitals, the
movement of cars has come to an almost complete standstill, no
imports or exports, no production or commercial activity. The
opening of all border crossings for the movement of goods is,
therefore, an essential component of a cease-fire.
Our government is not willing to do that, because it would mean
the consolidation of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip.
Government sources hint that Abbas and his people in Ramallah
also object to the lifting of the blockade - a malicious rumor,
because it would mean that Abbas is conducting a war against his
own people. President Bush also rejects a cease-fire, even while
his people pretend the opposite. Europe, as usual, is trailing
along behind the US.
Can Hamas agree to a cease-fire that would apply only to the
Gaza Strip but not to the West Bank? That is doubtful. This week
it was proven that the Islamic Jihad organization in Gaza cannot
stand idly by while its members are killed in Bethlehem. Hamas
could not stand by in Gaza and enjoy the fruits of government if
the Israeli army were to kill Hamas militants in Nablus or
Jenin. And, of course, no Palestinian would agree that the Gaza
Strip and the West Bank are two separate entities.
A Gaza-only cease-fire would allow Barak to blow it to pieces at
any moment by a Bethlehem-style provocation. This is how it
could go: Hamas agrees to a Gaza-only cease-fire, the Israeli
army kills a dozen Hamas members in Hebron, Hamas responds by
launching Grad missiles at Ashkelon, Olmert tells the world: You
see? The terrorist Hamas is violating the cease-fire, which
proves that we have no partner!
This means that a real and durable cease-fire, which would
create the necessary atmosphere for real peace negotiations,
must include the West Bank, too. Olmert-Barak would not dream of
agreeing to that. And as long as George Bush is around, there
will be no effective pressure on our government.
A PROPOS: who is really in charge in Israel at this time?
This week's events point to the answer: the man who makes the
decisions is Ehud Barak, the most dangerous person in Israel,
the very same Barak who blew up the Camp David conference and
persuaded the entire Israeli public that "we have no partner for
2052 years ago today, on the Ides of March, Julius Caesar was
assassinated. Ehud Barak sees himself as a latter-day local
replica of the Roman general. He, too, would dearly want to
report: "I came, I saw, I conquered."
But the reality is rather different: He came, he saw, he
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