The New York Times reports that the Israeli army is experiencing a clash between two groups within its ranks: the secularists and the religious nationalists.
It is all coming out in the aftermath of the Gaza invasion and the revelation of severe abuses against the Palestinians. Religious material was distributed to soldiers that framed the invasion as a religious war. The material claimed that Jews have a God-given right to the Palestinians’ land. The army’s chief rabbi himself, Brig. Gen. Avichai Rontzki, is an Israeli settler in the occupied West Bank. He handed out a booklet to soldiers containing “a rabbinical edict against showing the enemy mercy.”
Avshalom Vilan, then a leftist member of Parliament, accused the rabbi of having “turned the Israeli military’s activity from fighting out of necessity into a holy war.”
…[Rontzki] has written, for example, that what others call “humanistic values” are simply subjective feelings that should be subordinate to following the law of the Torah.
Israeli philosopher Moshe Halbertal says, “The right tends to make an equation between authenticity and brutality, as if the idea of humanism were a Western and alien implant to Judaism. They seem not to know that nationalism and fascism are also Western ideas and that hypernationalism is not Jewish at all.”
This is all thrown into even creepier relief by the revelation of certain army members’ predilection for violent and offensive T-shirt imagery.
The T-shirt on the left depicts a pregnant Palestinian woman wearing Islamic clothing, in the cross hairs of a gun. Underneath it says “1 Shot 2 Kills.”
Some other T-shirt designs of recent Israeli army popularity include:
A Palestinian child in the cross hairs, with the slogan: “The smaller they are, the harder it is”
A dead Palestinian baby with the slogan: “Better use Durex”
A soldier standing next to a bruised woman with the words: “Bet you got raped!”
“Let every Arab mother know that her son’s fate is in my hands!”
A ruined mosque and the slogan: “We came, we saw, we destroyed!”
This past January, the “Night Predators” demolitions platoon from Golani’s Battalion 13 ordered a T-shirt showing a Golani devil detonating a charge that destroys a mosque. An inscription above it says, “Only God forgives.”
…No one had a problem with the fact that a mosque gets blown up in the picture?
[One of the soldiers in the platoon said] “I don’t see what you’re getting at. I don’t like the way you’re going with this. Don’t take this somewhere you’re not supposed to, as though we hate Arabs.”
Huh. I don’t like the way this is going. Sounds like any other country that believes it has a religious mandate to do violence to others. Sounds like where Bush was trying to take the American military. Sounds like the religious right who framed the Iraq war as a “clash of civilizations,” a religious war of Christians vs. Muslims. Not all Americans are Christian. Some Americans are Muslim. Not all Israelis are Jews. Some Israelis are Arab (Jewish and not), some are Muslim.
I wish this holy war frame wasn’t so attractive for certain groups of people who already seem to lack signs of the kind of good judgment one hopes is inherent in war decision-making.