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In the End, It is the Violin that Wins

So, what did we have in the past weeks? We had an officer who “confirmed” the killing of a 13-year old girl. We had soldiers mutilating the dead body of an enemy and posing for photos with a cut-off head and a cigarette placed between the dead lips. We had soldiers at a checkpoint demanding that a passing Palestinian play the violin for them. And we had several members of the naval commandos pose naked for a photo on top of Mount Hermon. This is what our armed forces issue in the course of one or two weeks.

About the “confirming kill” of the girl, the army conducted a flawed and lying investigation. The mutilation of bodies is still under investigation, please be patient. About the soldiers before whom the Palestinian had to play his violin, the army spokesman said that they were insensitive. But the commandos who posed naked were cashiered forthwith, for the IDF is a moral army which cuts off abominations from its midst. When it is really necessary, the IDF knows how to to take a swift and decisive action.

I look at the photo of the Palestinian playing the violin to our soldiers. The face seems very familiar. It seems very familiar because this deliberately expressionless look on the face, this intentionally unfocused gaze, is very common at thousands of checkpoint encounters, and even at ID checks conducted by our fighters right here in the center of the city. But it is also familiar because we know this sight from the not too distant past, we know it very well from the other side of the violin, and the other side of the checkpoint, and the other side of the gun barrel.

“Such severe incidents make clear the imperative need for continuing our efforts to make our troops understand the message” said the army spokesman in response to the checkpoint recital. But the message was already long ago delivered and well understood. It was understood when the army not only allowed the settlers to mistreat Palestinian civilians, but often itself acted on the settlers’ behalf. The message was well understood when the commander of the air force said that he feels nothing when dropping a one-ton bomb on a Gaza neighborhood – and was rewarded for that statement by a promotion to deputy chief-of-staff. The message was understood when a division commander was cashiered for leaking information to a journalist, after having been praised for an operation in which civilians were indiscriminately killed and their homes razed to the ground. The message is well understood indeed, the understanding of it and its implementation have long ago spread from the army and into the behavior of drivers on the road, and the violence of pupils at school, and the economic policy which is trampling over the poor.

And the army spokesman also said that the soldiers’ conduct towards the violinist was “An insensitive conduct by soldiers who are facing a complicated and dangerous situation”. This automatic-modular answer clearly shows that the army spokesman does not understand the true complexity and the true danger of the situation. For once, we were the people who played the violin. The Jewish violin played in weddings, and at concert halls, and before the thugs in the camps. We played and joked: the violin is our instrument because it is so small, so easy to carry when you need to run away…

Zionism asked of us to lay the violin aside for some time, to pick up the rifle instead “until things get better”. The Territories and all that is involved in holding them have made this into a permanent situation. And here is the real danger. For in the end, it is the violin which wins.

MEIR SHALEV is a columnist for the Israeli paper, Yediot Aharonot.