Tuesday

26th Sep 2017

Opinion

Gaza: ‘Burning the consciousness’

  • Yehuda Shaul: Israel picks defensive names for its international audience (Photo: Quique Kierszenbaum)

In November 2012, Israel launched a military operation in the Gaza Strip called "Amud Anan", the literal English translation of which is, "Pillar of Clouds". Though, the official name in English was deemed, “Pillar of Defence”.

A few days ago we launched another operation named, "Mighty Cliff”, which is officially called, "Protective Edge".

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Both chosen titles are highly defensive in their essence.

When I hear the names given to military operations in Gaza - especially the versions chosen for an international audience - I am reminded of my military service as a combatant in the Israeli army, whose full name (both in Hebrew and English) is: the “Israel Defence Forces” (IDF).

These days, I am reminded of the gap I discovered during my military service between the ethos represented by the name of the IDF, and the actual military operations that we carried out in the West Bank.

Officially, the task before us was defensive. We performed "preventative" operations, such as prevention of terrorism. But my friends and I learned that “prevention” was nothing but a code name for a bunch of actions, many of which were offensive operations in any case. Bogui Ya'alon, then chief of staff and today the defence minister, called on us to "burn the Palestinian consciousness".

In the spirit of this call, we were sent to intimidate and punish an entire civilian community systematically. This was grounded in the assumption that its members would refrain from revolting if they were hurt, oppressed and scared enough. Frightened consciousness is, in other words, "burned consciousness”.

In order to "thwart", my friends and I learned to look at every Palestinian as an enemy and, as such, a legitimate target for attack. When we went on operations in order to “demonstrate our presence”, our objective was to frighten and confuse the civilian population in order to make them understand that they are always under our control.

We achieved this objective through patrols on city streets and through entering homes randomly, at all hours of the day and night. No actual intelligence information guided us during these operations.

Other times, we “prevented” terror through the collective punishment of innocent Palestinians. Such was the operation to which we were sent after a Palestinian murdered a little girl from the Adora settlement.

A few hours after the murder, we laid siege to the village of Tufach near the settlement of Adora. For an entire day we entered, one after the other, every single house in the village. We raided the houses and sent all the men in the village for questioning at the local school, which became our interrogation facility.

We did not find anything, but looking back, that was not the objective. Through mass arrests and invasion of the houses, we sowed fear and "punished” the community of Adora. The logic that guided us was that if we punish everyone now, they will be afraid to do something in the future.

The rocket fire from Gaza on Israeli civilians inside Israel is a terrible deed, which has no justification and should not be justified. It threatens the lives of men, women, and children in the entire country, and has even injured several citizens.

But the shooting of rockets does not turn all of the residents of Gaza into legitimate targets for mass destruction, just as the murder of the child should not have turned all of the residents of Tufach into legitimate targets for arrest and indiscriminate searches.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed thus far as a result of the Israeli attacks, most of them civilians. The UN reports that at least 342 houses have been destroyed.

On the first day of the operation, the attack on the Kwara family’s home (one of whose sons is a Hamas activist) killed eight family members who were in the house - six of whom were children.

In the name of defence, these days we are even attacking the civilian population under Israeli control throughout the year.

Even after the disengagement in 2005, we still control the airspace and territorial waters of Gaza, buffer zones inside the Gaza strip, and the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza - almost completely. Gaza's population registry is controlled by Israel, and in order to obtain an ID card at the age of 16, Israel’s approval is required.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, of course.

One of the characteristics of such control is seen in periodic military operations, causing terrible damage not only to the para-military infrastructure, but also to civilians, men, women and children that live in Gaza.

This reality was not forced upon us. It is the product of choices made by our leadership every day, to maintain control over the Palestinian territories and the population that resides there. I know the consequences of this choice well, because as a soldier and commander I took part in its implementation.

I learned that the preservation of such control requires the constant exercise of force. I learned that is impossible to forcefully enforce a foreign government’s rule on a population of millions of people for decades, ethically.

Designating the repeated attacks on Gaza with defensive names will not change the nature of the operations.

Significant change will come only on the day the occupation ends. In truth, it is difficult to know whether the threat to southern Israeli towns and communities will cease if the occupation ends.

Though we do know that the occupation has not ceased thus far, and if nothing changes, we are all condemned to undergo another bloody operation, similar to the current one, in a year or two.

Semantics will not change this reality, in which Israel is not only defending itself but also attacking - not only during these difficult days, but every day.

Instead of trying to explain and justify it, we must act to change it. These are the days when we have to say: it's time to end the occupation.

The writer served as an infantry combat soldier and commander in the IDF, and is a founding member of Breaking the Silence, an Israeli NGO

A social Europe needs better housing

EU social and urban policies should be more linked together and involve local authorities, in order to help people find affordable homes.

News in Brief

  1. Tusk: No sufficient progress yet in Brexit talks
  2. EU commission provides €2mn for food quality studies
  3. Almost a third of Europeans unaware of cost-free roaming
  4. No immediate declaration after Tallinn digital summit
  5. Alternative women's rights fund raises €292mn
  6. Russian gay rights activist calls for EU action
  7. Food maker shamed on inferior products in Croatia
  8. British PM to meet EU president on Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressExpresses Concern Over Worrying Gains for the Far-Right AfD
  2. EU2017EEEU Finance Ministers Agreed to Develop New Digital Taxation Rules
  3. Mission of China to the EUGermany Stands Ready to Deepen Cooperation With China
  4. World VisionFirst Ever Young People Consultation to Discuss the Much Needed Peace in Europe
  5. European Jewish CongressGermany First Country to Adopt Working Definition of Antisemitism
  6. EU2017EEFour Tax Initiatives to Modernise the EU's Tax System
  7. Dialogue PlatformResponsibility in Practice: Gulen & Islamic Thought I 27 September, 2017
  8. Counter BalanceHuman Rights Concerns Over EIB Loan to the Trans Anatolian Pipeline Project
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina Leads the Global Clean Energy Transition
  10. CES - Silicones EuropeFrom Baking Moulds to Oven Mitts, Silicones Are a Key Ingredient in Kitchens
  11. Martens CentreFor a New Europeanism: How to Put the Motto "Unity in Diversity" Into Practice
  12. Access MBAGet Ahead With an MBA Degree. Top MBA Event in Brussels

Latest News

  1. Egg scare prompts EU to consider national food safety officers
  2. EU commission says Spanish website seizures are legal
  3. EU commission sees 'more evidence' of dual food quality
  4. A social Europe needs better housing
  5. London firms seek free trade after Brexit
  6. Macron to lay out plan for EU 'pioneers'
  7. Polish president disappoints EU on judicial reform
  8. Italy brushes off southern alliance in EU agency race

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Idealist QuarterlyIdealist Quarterly Event: Building Fearless Democracies With Gerald Hensel
  2. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Urges Bigger Global Role for Emerging Economies
  3. EU2017EEAre We Socially Insured in the Future of Work?
  4. European Jewish CongressFrench Authorities to Root Out "Societal Antisemitism" After Jewish Family Assaulted
  5. European Federation of Local Energy CompaniesClean Energy for All? On 10.10 Top-Level Speakers Present the Clean Energy Package
  6. UNICEFUp to Three Quarters of Children Face Abuse & Exploitation on Mediterranean Migration Routes
  7. Swedish EnterprisesEurope Under Challenge; Recipe for a Competitive EU
  8. European Public Health AllianceCall to International Action to Break Deadlock on Chronic Diseases Crisis
  9. CES - Silicones EuropePropelling the construction revolution with silicones
  10. EU2017EEEU 2018 Budget: A Case of Three Paradoxes
  11. ACCAUS 'Dash for Gas' Could Disrupt Global Gas Markets
  12. Swedish Enterprises“No Time to Lose” Film & Debate on How Business & Politics Can Fight Climate Change