What allowed us to make such cruel decisions without perceiving ourselves as scoundrels was their anonymous, statistical character. For we did not know that we would kill precisely that mother in Nabatiyeh and her seven children, all buried under the ruins of their home. We did not know we would kill precisely the three children of the Diib family and five children of the Belhas family, whose parents harbored the mistaken belief that the United Nations site at Qana would protect them from us.
All we knew was that a large-scale killing of civilians was inseparable from the futuristic combat style the Israel Defense Forces have chosen. All we knew was that it could be assumed that the operation would kill 100 civilians, give or take a few.
Still, it is important to be precise. We did not kill them with prior intent. We killed them because it was not important for us not to kill them. Because the yawning gap between the unlimited sacrosanct importance we attribute to our own lives and the very limited sacred character we attribute to the lives of others allowed us to kill them.
We killed them out of a certain naive hubris. Believing with absolute certitude that now, with the White House, the Senate and much of the American media in our hands, the lives of others do not count as much as our own. Believing we really have the right to instruct 400,000 people to leave their homes within eight hours. And that we have the right, when those eight hours have passed, to treat their homes as military targets. And that we have the right to drop 16,000 shells on their villages and small towns. And that we have the right to kill without being guilty. (Emphasis Mine. This admission should make you sick. He’s telling the whole world that the U.S. government does not belong to We the People, but instead the Zionist State of Israel. This is why we have a “Right to alter or to abolish” this government to quote the words of Jefferson written in the Declaration of Independence. We must restore our Constitutional Republic and kick these Zionists out of the halls of our government, media, and especially our churches. Most Christians in America falsely revere the State of Israel to the point of elevating it above our own country. This is based on false dispensationalist theology that has been promoted over the last 100 years and is now firmly rooted within just about every evangelical church across America. He stated that the lives of the civilians they slaughtered do not count as much as their own. Zionism at its core is all about racial superiority. They believe that they are “God’s chosen people”. When I read this filth, I can’t help but think of what Hitler said about the Aryan race. It’s the same thing! And I will call it out as such and I don’t care if this gets me labeled as “anti-semitic”. Israel hides its Zionist philosophy and war crimes behind the cloak of Judaism and the Holocaust.)
An Israeli massacre can be distinguished in most respects from an Arab massacre in that it is not malicious, not carried out on orders from High Above and does not serve any strategic purpose. It contrasts with Israel’s declared national policy and its accepted cultural norms. Yet, while these distinctions are valid they mitigate neither the gravity of the massacre nor our responsibility. For an Israeli massacre usually occurs after we sanction an unjustifiable degree of violence so that at some point we lose the ability to control that violence. Thus, in most cases, an Israeli massacre is a kind of work accident. Such was the case in Qana.
The mortars and Katyushas that caused us to kill 102 people were fired 12 minutes before we killed them. Twelve minutes is a very long time on the battlefield. It is enough time to look at the map and see that the place from which the Katyushas were fired was some 300 yards from a large United Nations compound. Enough time to clarify whether this camp, like most, was being used by dozens or hundreds of refugees. Enough time to recall that for days U.N. officers had warned that shells were landing too close.
Enough time to recall that, despite its great sophistication, our radar has problems precisely identifying the spot from which Katyushas are fired. Enough time to recall that the margin of error for the first shellings in a series by our howitzers is well over 1,000 feet. Thus, 12 minutes is more than enough time to think twice and conclude that the prospect of firing at Qana and hitting only Hezbollah fighters is relatively slight, whereas the prospect of shelling Qana and harming hundreds of innocent civilians is much too great.
Twelve minutes is enough time to expose the fact that if the shelling was carried out according to the procedures and orders of Operation Grapes of Wrath, something must have been deeply wrong with those procedures and orders. Something not completely humane. Something bordering on the criminal.
But the system worked extremely well. The public backed the media, which backed the Government, which backed the Israel Defense Forces’ Chief of Staff, who backed the review officer, who backed the commanders, who backed the soldiers who fired the three rounds of shells that killed 102 people at Qana.
With the election not far off, neither the peace movements, nor the human rights activists, nor the left-of-center press rocked the boat and presented the military-political complex with harsh questions that needed to be asked. What would have been unthinkable during the years the peace elite was in the opposition now occurred without a murmur of protest.
It was very important to us that the victims stay faceless, nameless people. People who are quite unreal. Who had the misfortune of finding themselves on the wrong side of our superior technology? Who had the misfortune of finding themselves on the wrong side of our Jewish and democratic values? Who had only the blue-clad soldiers from the Fiji Islands to collect them into body bags.
So now Qana is part of our biography. Precisely because we have tried to deny and ignore the outrage, it remains affixed to us. And just as the Baruch Goldstein massacre of praying Muslims in Hebron and the murder of Yitzhak Rabin were extreme manifestations of some rotten seed planted in the religious-nationalist culture, it now seems that the massacre at Qana was an extreme manifestation of rotten seeds dormant in our secular Israeli culture: Cynicism. Arrogance. Egocentrism of the strong. A penchant to blur the distinction between good and bad, the allowed and the forbidden. A tendency not to demand justice, not to be adamant about the truth. Eighteen years ago, I happened to be in Qana. It was no big deal — only a limited military action. First, we shot at the village with machine guns, then we entered in one column of armored vehicles and two columns of infantry. Finally, we found three terrorist youths and stormed them in the most idiotic way possible, losing two of our own.
I have not stopped thinking about Qana. Its place is in our lives. Our lives are in it. I recall how we appeared on its horizon in 1978, leaving some casualties behind and vanishing. And then we came back.
In Our Hands
By Joseph Sobran
One isn’t supposed to say this, but many people believe that Israel now holds the White House, the Senate, and much of the American media in its hands. This is what is known as an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.
The odd thing is that it is held by many Israelis. In an essay reprinted in the May 27, 1996, issue of the New York Times Ari Shavit, an Israeli columnist, reflected sorrowfully on the wanton Israeli killing of more than a hundred Lebanese civilians in April. “We killed them out of a certain naive hubris. Believing with absolute certitude that now, with the White House, the Senate, and much of the American media in our hands, the lives of others do not count as much as our own….”
In a single phrase — “in our hands” — Mr. Shavit has lit up the American political landscape like a flash of lightning.
Notice that Mr. Shavit assumes as an obvious fact what we Americans can say publicly only at our own risk. It’s surprising, and refreshing, to find such candor in an American newspaper (though his essay was reprinted from the Israeli paper Ha’aretz).
The prescribed cant on the subject holds that Israel is a “reliable ally” of the United States, despite Israel’s long record of double-dealing against this country, ranging from the killing of American sailors to constant espionage and technology theft. The word ally implies that the relationship exists because it’s in the interests of this country, though Israel’s lobby is clearly devoted to the interests of Israel itself, and it’s childish to suggest otherwise.
You expect that from the Israel lobby; lobbies are lobbies, after all. But it’s unnerving that the White House, the Senate, and much of the American media should be “in our hands,” as Mr. Shavit puts it. Bill Clinton, a lover of peace since his college days, raised no protest when the Israelis drove 400,000 innocent Lebanese out of their homes this year in “retaliation” for rockets launched into Israel (wounding one Israeli) by a faction over whom those 400,000 had no control.
Congress of course, was supine as usual at this latest extravagance of Israeli “defense.” Congress too is “in our hands.”
A recent article in the Washington Post likened the Israel lobby’s power to that of the gun and tobacco lobbies. But there is one enormous difference. Newspapers like the Post aren’t afraid to criticize the gun and tobacco lobbies. They will say forthrightly that those lobbies seek goals that are dangerous for this country. They don’t dare say as much of the Israel lobby.
But much of the press and electronic media are “in our hands” in a more active sense: they supply misleading pro-Israel propaganda in the guise of news and commentary, constantly praising Israeli democracy and ignoring Israel’s mistreatment of its non-Jewish minorities — mistreatment which, if any government inflicted it on a Jewish minority, would earn it the fierce opprobrium of our media.
No decent American would think of reducing American Jews to the status of Palestinians in Israel. The idea is almost absurd. Yet Americans are taxed to subsidize the oppression of Palestinians, on the flimsy pretext that they are helping an “ally” in America’s own self-interest, as if it were in our interest to be hated and despised by the whole Muslim world.
All this is interesting less for what it tells us about Israel than for what it tells us about America. Frank discussion of Israel is permitted in Israel, as Mr. Shavit’s article illustrates. It’s rarely permitted here. Charges of anti-Semitism and a quiet but very effective boycott will be the reward of any journalist who calls attention to his own government’s — and his own profession’s — servitude to Israeli interests.
Very few in America are doing anything to change that sorry state of affairs. Mr. Shavit wrote his article in the desperate hope of turning back his countrymen and his government from a morally and politically perilous course. At least he can hope. It’s harder for us, when our own government isn’t in our hands.