Demonizing Israelis

Qabatiya, near Jenin 2:6:16 (AFP)

It’s politically unwise to get into demonizing Israelis, including Israeli soldiers involved in the occupation. The Palestinian proposal for a democratic, secular state where Jews & Palestinians will live as brothers & sisters presumes the ability of Israelis to be persuaded. That won’t be just through painstaking pedagogy & spiritual transformation but through the development of Palestinian political power against the state of Israel.

After Israel’s murderous invasion & carpet bombing siege over Gaza in 2014, the Israeli military reported a rise in soldier suicides. The figures given are likely fudged & they aren’t anything as massive as soldier suicides in the US military which are greater than combat deaths. Nevertheless, they are significant. Israeli military officials deny any connection between the barbaric military operations & the suicides because that would belie their claims about Israel being ‘the most moral army in the world.’

But we know from testimony gathered by Breaking the Silence, the Israeli anti-occupation group of soldiers & veterans, that distress among Israeli soldiers at what they did & what they witnessed is deeper & more widespread than reflected in the number of suicides. That’s why demonizing is so short-sighted. Putting aside the psycho, special forces troops, most Israelis weren’t raised to do monstrous things; most have the same human values as people round the world–except that they are bred in hatred for Palestinians & in Zionist mythology justifying colonialism. When they’re engaged in occupation, they find themselves doing things at odds with who they thought they were & perhaps in a peculiar way, they find themselves confronting the humanity of Palestinians.

It isn’t up to Palestinian solidarity activists to dispense contrition for human rights crimes committed nor to demonize soldiers. Our job is to build a movement that can grow Palestinian political power. That’s what BDS is all about. But we should take note that testimony gathered by anti-occupation soldiers & the suicide of soldiers reflects distress at Israeli policy & shows possibilities for political work among soldiers & vets. That’s only possible if they aren’t demonized & treated like pariah. That doesn’t mean sweet-talking around war crimes; it means not giving up on Israelis because troubled veterans are a weak link that can be politically organized to build Palestinian political power.

Photo is Israeli soldiers in Qabatiya, West Bank, pointing assault weapons at unarmed Palestinians. How Palestinians under brutal occupation deal with Israeli troops is for them to decide.

(Photo from AFP)