By Nurit Peled-Elhanan ∙ CounterPunch · August 9, 2007
Image © David Baldinger
How sad it is to come to the realization that the number of those who evade service in the army of occupation is so low that there is virtually no effect on the motivation of Israel’s children to put on the uniform of brutality.
Professor Stewart Cohen of Bar Ilan University consoles us by declaring that the “blame” lies in the increase in the number of Haredis who do not serve and he informs us that the army of the United States would have been happy with such a low percentage of evaders during the Vietnam war. Maybe we would do well to learn something from the Americans of the 1960s, or even from the Haredi Jews who fear for the safety of their children.
When the extent of evasion became known, I was invited onto the program of Oded Shahar, “Politika”, as a mother who will not permit her son (now 15 years old) to join the army. Apart from me, I was informed over the course of a protracted campaign of persuasion, only men were invited, most of them warmongering generals like Effie Eitam and Yossi Peled.
After I was convinced that my participation in the program would be important, I agreed. The researcher asked me why I would not allow my son to enlist. I explained to her that an army that has been involved for forty years now in systematic and growing abuse of a civilian population, (abuse that even a courageous journalist like Gideon Levy calls by the gentle name of “policing”), an army that teaches its soldiers that killing Palestinian children and those who protect them, like Rachel Corrie and James Miller, is not a crime, an army whose commanders are immune to punishment though they commit daily crimes against humanity, is not a suitable place for my son, who was brought up to love people, who has Palestinian friends, whose brothers and parents have Palestinian friends who are subjected to that same reign of terror and daily torment. After half an hour I was told that despite my contribution there were not enough seats on the stage.
A few days later we were told in an isolated solitary news broadcast that the file on the murder of Abir Aramin, the daughter of Salwa and Bassam Aramin, has been closed. Bassam is one of the founders of the Palestinian-Israeli movement Combatants for Peace, where my sons Elik and Guy are members. Bassam Aramin spent 9 years in an Israeli jail for being a member of the Fatah in the Hebron area and for trying to throw a grenade on an Israeli army Jeep which was patrolling in Occupied Hebron.
On a Tuesday afternoon, the 16th of January, an Israeli soldier shot his nine year old daughter, Abir, in the head as she was leaving school to go home. The soldier will not spend an hour in jail. In Israel, soldiers are not imprisoned for killing Arabs. Never. It does not matter whether the Arabs are young or old, real or potential terrorists, peaceful demonstrators or stone throwers. The army has not conducted an inquiry in Abir Aramin's death. The police and the courts have questioned no one except for Abir's sister, who was holding her hand while she was falling. The young sister was asked time and again how many meters were they from the school gate, from the kiosk, from the jeep.
There was hardly any investigation except for a private one by Bassam and his friends who know exactly who the killer is. But as far as the Israeli Defense Forces are concerned, the shooting did not happen. The army's official account of her death is that she might have been hit by a stone that one of her classmates was throwing "at our forces." That in the face of the finding of a senior pathologist, who worked for many years in an institute of forensic medicine.
One of the allegations against the evaders is that they have stopped believing in “values” such as sacrifice. Whose sacrifice, exactly? On what altar? To what god?
The soldiers of Israel are called upon to sacrifice children, parents, volunteers, and sometimes themselves on the altar of the megalomania of the insolent and corrupt leaders of the state of Israel, who have succeeded in converting this whole country into an altar on which they sacrifice other people’s children to the god of death. And no one is guilty of their deaths; no one is ever punished for the murder of a Palestinian child. The state takes care of those who serve it, sometimes. Other times it sacrifices even them, with the same cold-bloodedness and for the same reasons.
And the murderers? What about them? Do they know that they committed crimes? Do they toss and turn in their beds at night? Are they tormented by images of the small bodies that convulse and fall under their rifles, bombs and shells? Probably not. We know of no case in which any soldier turned himself in and expressed remorse for his actions. That is the biggest success of Israeli education: the distinction between blood and blood, between dead child and dead child, and the inculcation of the firm belief that the murder of Palestinians and their friends is not a crime.
Everyone who enlists in the army knows this and is prepared for it. Half the nation! How many millions are there in half the nation? How many millions of young men and women who are simply unmoved by the crying of a child, the agonies of a woman in labor, the pleas of an old man and the deaths of innocent people? How many millions of people who never learned to refuse orders that are manifestly inhumane even if they are legal according to the racist laws of their state, and to say no to corrupt leaders and bloodthirsty generals?
Well done, IDF! Well done, Israeli Jewish education, that has succeeded nearly perfectly in bestowing the values of racism, nearly without opposition.
And if my son Yigal really does want to participate in the military programs that they impose on high school students starting in grade 10, or God forbid, to enlist in the army of occupation and torment, I will see it as a dreadful educational failure. A terrible maternal failure. And if I do not do everything I can to prevent him from becoming a murderer or a corpse at the age of 18 I will know that I betrayed him and my vocation as a mother.
Translated from Hebrew by Mark Marshall. Nurit Peled-Elhanan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org