Sunday

22nd Jan 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".

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

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

Opinion

The 89ers and the battle against populism

It falls to the Europeans who were born around 1989 and grew up in a peaceful Europe to build a fresh new vision for the EU that transcends the ideological, educational and national cleavages of the past.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children
  2. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  4. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  5. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  6. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  7. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  8. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  9. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  10. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London
  11. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhDs Across Europe on the Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU - Apply Now!
  12. Dialogue PlatformInterview: Fethullah Gulen Condemns Assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Zero Waste EuropePublic Support Needed to Promote Zero Waste in More Municipalities
  2. Belgrade Security ForumEU Cannot Afford to Ignore the Western Balkans as Populism Surges
  3. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen Calls for an Investigation on the Assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey
  4. World VisionAmid EU Talks on Migration, Children on the Move Remain Forgotten and Unprotected
  5. Centre Maurits CoppietersAlex Salmond Receives Coppieters Award for His Service to Scotland and Europe
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsStrong Support for Hamburg Declaration on Human Rights Defenders
  7. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Use Bioenergy Coming From Forests in a Sustainable Way?
  8. Counter BalanceReport Reveals Corrupt but Legal Practices in Development Finance
  9. Swedish EnterprisesMEPs and Business Representatives Debate on the Future of the EU at Winter Mingle
  10. ACCAFifty Key Factors in the Public Sector Accountants Need to Prepare for
  11. UNICEFSchool “as Vital as Food and Medicine” for Children Caught up in Conflict
  12. European Jewish CongressEJC President Breathes Sigh of Relief Over Result of Austrian Presidential Election