Only Israel is permitted. Only Israel is permitted to carry out illegal, immoral operations. Only it is permitted to be sanctimonious, to be shocked and to shout from the rooftops when others do the same thing to Israel.
Only Israel is permitted to take hostages. Recall, for example, the 1989 capture of Sheikh Abd al-Karim Obeid, in an operation that was no less of a war crime than the abduction of three yeshiva students in the West Bank.
In that operation, Israel kidnapped 21 Lebanese nationals to serve as “bargaining chips” it hoped would lead to the release of the missing Israel Air Force navigator Ron Arad. In addition to Obeid and Mustafa Dirani, head of security for Lebanon’s Amal militia, 19 other young men were abducted, including two 15-year-old boys and one man with severe developmental disabilities. They had no idea who Ron Arad was, and they languished in prison for years. When the elite special-operations force Sayeret Matkal kidnapped Obeid, it also killed a neighbor who dared to approach his home.
An extra-large sack was tailor-made for the outsized Obeid. This was an abduction for the purposes of bargaining, just as that of the three West Bank teens may have been. But Israel did it, and therefore it was legitimate. Almost no one protested, the world wasn’t asked to denounce it and no one thought to define Israel as a “vicious terror organization,” as GOC Central Command Nitzan Alon called Hamas on Tuesday, declaiming his remarks like a bar-mitzvah boy, as thousands of his soldiers made war in the West Bank. Only Israel is permitted.
Only Israel is permitted now to arrest dozens of Palestinians every night, most if not all of whom have nothing to do with the teens’ abduction. Only it is permitted now to launch a collective-punishment operation that includes the bullying of tens of thousands of innocent people. Only Israel is permitted to wallow in a bath of ultra-nationalist religious schmaltz, sticky and greasy, and to speak bathetically, at the drop of a hat, about the sanctity of its people’s lives — only theirs. And perhaps the teens’ kidnappers, with their cruel abduction, are trying to win the release of thousands of their brothers, imprisoned for long years in Israel, some of them without benefit of trial. Perhaps the three yeshiva students are also “bargaining chips.”
But in racism, as in racism, to paraphrase a maxim: Human life only refers to ours, concern for it and its liberty only matters when it’s us; only we are permitted to be our “Brother’s Keeper,” as the Israel Defense Forces is calling its operation in English. Only attempt to dare to say that Palestinians may use violent resistance against the occupation, even in accordance with international law, and you will immediately be tagged as enemies, heretics and traitors who must be incarcerated, as happened to MK Haneen Zoabi, who said what every Israeli said at the time about the abductions of the Lebanese. Zoabi erred when she said the kidnappers aren’t terrorists; they committed an act of terror, much more limited than Israel’s acts of terror.
One must hope that the teens are alive, fear for their safety and pray that they are released safe and sound, but what is happening in the meantime in distant Israel is far from its “finest hour;” this is one of Israel’s ugliest hours. All the seeds of ultra-nationalism and messianism that have been planted over the past several years are germinating now and blooming in the flower beds of rot. All of the Israeli hatreds have reared their heads in the wake of the kidnapping of three yeshiva students whose place of learning is in the heart of the occupied territory. All of the destructiveness and the intolerance for other views, all of the unity and the falling into rank in Israel have now assembled for the biggest display of ultra-nationalism ever. All the seeds of religiosity have sprouted into a mass prayer service led by the television broadcasters, every single last one of which has volunteered for propaganda duty. No one questions the mass arrests, the re-imprisonment of the Palestinians who were freed in the Gilad Shalit exchange deal, the arrests of members of the Palestinian parliament, the deportations to the Gaza Strip and the warmongering. Anyone who does has sealed his own fate.
All of this is permitted to Israel, only to Israel. The immediate victims of the “finest hour” are the wretched families of the abducted teens and tens of thousands of Palestinians. But after this affair ends, the light will rise on a new, even darker Israel.