FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Good Morning, Elijahu!

by URI AVNERY

A STORY has it that Oscar Wilde once attended the premiere of a colleague’s play and every few minutes raised his hat. When asked about this odd behavior, he replied: “I am a courteous person. I raise my hat when I meet an old acquaintance.”

If I wore a hat, I would have to raise it every few minutes these days when I view TV talk shows, listen to the radio or read the papers. I keep meeting things I wrote years ago, and especially things I have written since the beginning of this war.

For example: for decades I have warned again and again that the occupation is corrupting our army. Now the papers are full of learned articles by respected commentators, who have discovered – surprise! surprise! – that the occupation has corrupted our army.

In such cases we say in Hebrew: “Good morning, Elijahu!” You have woken up at long last.

If there is a touch of irony in my remark, I do apologize. After all, I wrote in the hope that my words would convince the readers – and especially people of the Israeli establishment – and that they would pass them on. When this is happening now, I am quite happy about the plagiarism.

But it is important to spell out how the occupation has “corrupted our army”. Otherwise it is just an empty slogan, and we shall learn nothing from it.

* * *

A PERSONAL flashback: in the middle of the 1948 war I had an unpleasant experience. After a day of heavy fighting, I was sleeping soundly in a field near the Arab village Suafir (now Sapir). All around me were sleeping the other soldiers of my company, Samson’s Foxes. Suddenly I was woken up by a tremendous explosion. An Egyptian plane had dropped a bomb on us. Killed: none. Wounded: 1.

How’s that? Very simple: we were all lying in our personal foxholes, which we had dug, in spite of our fatigue, before going to sleep. It was self-evident to us that when we arrived anywhere, the first thing to do was dig in. Sometimes we changed locations three times a day, and every time we dug foxholes. We knew that our lives depended on it.

Not anymore. In one of the most deadly incidents in the Second Lebanon War, 12 members of a company were killed by a rocket near Kfar Giladi, while sitting around in an open field. The soldiers later complained that they had not been led to a shelter. Have today’s soldiers never heard of a foxhole? Have they been issued with personal shovels at all?

Inside Lebanon, why did the soldiers congregate in the rooms of houses, where they were hit by anti-tank missiles, instead of digging foxholes?

It seems that the army has been weaned from this practice. No wonder: an army that is dealing with “terrorists” in the West Bank and Gaza does not need to take any special precautions. After all, no air force drops bombs on them, no artillery shells them. They need no special protection.

* * *

THAT IS true of all our armed forces on land, in the air and on the sea. It is certainly a luxury to fight against an enemy who cannot defend himself properly. But it is dangerous to get used to it.

The navy, for example. For years now it has been sailing along the shores of Gaza and Lebanon, shelling at pleasure, arresting fishermen, checking ships. It never dreamed that the enemy could shoot back. Suddenly it happened – and on live television, too. Hizbullah hit it with a land-to-sea missile.

There was no end to the surprise. It was almost considered as Chutzpah. What, an enemy who shoots back? What next? And why did Army Intelligence not warn us that they have such an unheard of thing, a land-to-sea missile?

* * *

IN THE air as on the sea. For years now, Air Force pilots shoot and bomb and kill at will. They are able to hit a moving car with great precision (together with the passers-by, of course.) Their technical level is excellent. But what? Nobody is shooting at them while they are doing this.

The Royal Air Force boys during the blitz (“the few to whom so many owe so much”) had to confront the determined pilots of the Luftwaffe, and most of them were killed. Later, the British and Americans who bombed Germany ran the gauntlet of murderous flak.

But our pilots have no such problems. When they are in action over the West Bank and Gaza, there are no enemy pilots, no surface-to-air missiles, no flak. The sky belongs to them, and they can concentrate on their real job: to destroy the infrastructure of life and act as flying executioners, “eliminate” the objects of “targeted liquidations”, feeling only a “slight bang on the wing” while releasing a one-ton bomb over a residential area.

Does that create a good air force? Does that prepare them for battle with a real enemy? In Lebanon the pilots have not (yet) met anti-aircraft fire. The only helicopter shot down was hit by anti-tank fire while landing troops. But what about the next war everybody is speaking about?
* * *

AND THE ground troops? Were they prepared for this war?

For 39 years now they have been compelled to carry our the jobs of a colonial police force: to run after children throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, to drag away women trying to protect their sons from arrest, to capture people sleeping at home. To stand for hours at the checkpoints and decide whether to let a pregnant woman reach the hospital or send back a sick old man. At the worst, they have to invade a casbah, to face untrained “terrorists” who have nothing but Kalashnikovs to fight against the tanks and airplanes of their occupiers, as well as courage and an unbelievable determination.

Suddenly these soldiers were sent to Lebanon to confront tough, well trained and highly motivated guerilla fighters who are ready to die while carrying out their mission. Fighters who have learned to appear from an unexpected direction, to disappear into well-prepared bunkers, to use advanced and effective weapons.

“We were not trained for this war!” the reserve soldiers now complain. They are right. Where could they have been trained? In the alleys of Jabalieh refugee camp? In the well-rehearsed scenes of embraces and tears, while removing pampered settlers with “sensitivity and determination”? Clearly it was easier to blockade Yasser Arafat and his few untrained bodyguards in the Mukata’ah compound in Ramallah than to conquer Bint Jbeil over and over again.

That applies even more to the tanks. It is easy to drive a tank along the main street of Gaza or over a row of houses in a refugee camp, facing only stone-throwing boys, when the opponent has no trained fighters or half-way modern weapons. It’s a hell of a difference driving the same tank in a built-up area in Lebanon, when a trained guerilla with an effective anti-tank weapon can lurk behind every corner. That’s a different story altogether. The more so as our army’s most modern tank is not immune from missiles.

The deepest rot appeared in the logistics system. It just did not function. And why should it? There is no need for complex logistics to bring water and food to the soldiers at the Kalandia checkpoint.

* * *

THE SIMPLE truth is that for decades now our army has not faced a serious military force. The last time was 24 years ago, during the First Lebanon War, when it fought against the Syrian army.

At the time we said in my magazine, Haolam Hazeh, that the war was a complete military failure, a fact that was suppressed by all the military commentators. In that war, too, our army did not reach its targets on time according to the plan: it reached them either late or not at all. In the Syrian sector the army did not reach its assigned objective at all: the Beirut-Damascus road. In the Palestinian sector, it reached that road much too late, and only after violating the agreed cease-fire.

The last serious war of our army was the Yom Kippur war. After the initial disgraceful setbacks, it did indeed attain an impressive victory. But that was only six years into the occupation. Now, 33 years later, we see the full damage done by the cancer called occupation, which by now has spread to all the organs of the military body.

How to stop the cancer?

The military commentator Ze’ev Schiff has a patent medicine. Schiff generally reflects the views of the army high command. (Perhaps over the last 40 years, there may have been instances when he voiced opinions that were not identical with those of the General Staff, but if so, they have escaped me.) He proposes to shift the burden of occupation from the army to the Border Police.

Sounds reasonable, but is completely unrealistic. How can Israel create a second big force to maintain the occupation, on top of the army, which already costs something approaching 12 billion dollars a year?

But, thank goodness, there is another remedy. An amazingly simple one: to free ourselves from the occupation once and for all. To get out of the occupied territories in agreement and cooperation with the Palestinians. To make peace with the Palestinian people, so they can establish their independent state side by side with Israel.

And, while we are at it, to make peace with Syria and Lebanon, too.

So that the “Defense Army for Israel”, as it is officially called in Hebrew, can go back to its original purpose: to defend the recognized international borders of the State of Israel.

URI AVNERY is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is one of the writers featured in The Other Israel: Voices of Dissent and Refusal. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s hot new book The Politics of Anti-Semitism. He can be reached at: avnery@counterpunch.org.

 

 

URI AVNERY is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch’s book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
Jim Goodman
Congress Must Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership
Peter White
Meeting John Ross
Colin Todhunter
Organic Agriculture, Capitalism and the Parallel World of the Pro-GMO Evangelist
Ralph Nader
They’re Just Not Answering!
Cesar Chelala
Beware of the Harm on Eyes Digital Devices Can Cause
Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Invisible Epidemic: Radiation and Rising Rates of Thyroid Cancer
Andre Vltchek
Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder
Jack Smith
Obama Readies to Fight in Libya, Again
Robert Fantina
As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?
Dean Baker
Market Turmoil, the Fed and the Presidential Election
John Grant
Israel Moves to Check Its Artists
John Wight
Who Was Cecil Rhodes?
David Macaray
Will There Ever Be Anyone Better Than Bernie Sanders?
Christopher Brauchli
Suffer Little Children: From Brazil to Flint
JP Sottile
Did Fox News Help the GOP Establishment Get Its Groove Back?
Binoy Kampmark
Legalizing Cruelties: the Australian High Court and Indefinite Offshore Detention
John Feffer
Wrestling With Iran
Rob Prince – Ibrahim Kazerooni
Syria Again
Louisa Willcox
Park Service Finally Stands Up for Grizzlies and Us
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail