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Gilad Shalit: the Israeli grand illusion

By Gilad Atzmon, February 12, 2009

11 February 2009
Gilad Atzmon finds in the words of Noam Shalit, the father of the captured Israeli occupation soldier Gilad Shalit, an embodiment of the total discrepancy between the Israeli self-perception and actual Israeli practice, i.e. barbarism without parallel – a severe form of detachment verging on collective psychosis.

A few days ago, Noam Shalit, the father of Gilad Shalit, slammed Hamas for holding his son for no real reason. Miraculously, he managed to forget the fact that his son Gilad was actually a combatant who served as a post guard in a concentration camp and was captured in a fortress bunker overlooking Gaza.

Father Shalit called upon Hamas to “stop holding us as hostages of the symbols of yesterday's wars". He also claimed that Hamas is engaged in no less than “imaginary resistance”. Seemingly, these are some very bold statements from a father who is supposed to be very concerned wabout his son’s fate.

The Gilad Shalit saga is no doubt an exemplary case study of Israeli identity. In spite of the fact that Gilad Shalit is a soldier who was directly involved in the Israeli military crime against a civilian population, the Israelis and Jewish lobbies around the world insist upon presenting him as an “innocent victim”. The leading slogan of the Shalit campaign reads “Gilad Shalit, Human Being, Jew”. I find myself asking is he really just an ordinary “human being” as the slogan suggests, or rather a chosen one as implied by the “Jew” predicate? And if he is just a human being, why exactly did they add the “Jew” in? What is there in the “Jew” title that serves the Free Shalit campaign?

Apparently, the use of the words “Human being” and “Jew” in such close proximity is informative and meaningful. Within the post-Holocaust Jewish and liberal discourses, “human being” stands for “innocence” and “Jew” stands for “victim”. Accordingly, the Shalit campaign slogan should be translated as  “Free Gilad Shalit the innocent victim”.

One may wonder at this stage, what does it take for a combatant serving as a post guard in a concentration camp to become an “innocent victim”? Apparently, as far as Israeli discourse is concerned, not a lot. It is really just a matter of rhetoric.

It is noteworthy that, within the militarized Israeli society, the soldier is elevated, his blood is precious in comparison to ordinary Jewish citizens. Israelis adore their military men and grieve every loss of their armed forces with spectacular laments. Given that the Israeli army is a popular  army, the Israeli love of their soldiers can be realized as just another manifestation of their inherent self-loving. The Israelis simply love themselves almost as much as they hate their neighbours. In Israel, the death in action of an Iarmy combatant would receive far more attention than the death of a civilian who was subject of so called “terror”. Similarly, in Israel an army prisoner of war would attract the ultimate media attention. Ron Arad, Ehud Goldwasser and Gilad Shalit are household names in Israel, their names and faces are familiar to all Israelis and others who are interested in the conflict. Given that Israel is in a constant state of war, the collective, exaggerated concern for the military man is rather enigmatic or even peculiar.

Within the Israeli narrative, the soldier is seen as an innocent being that is “caught” in a war which he is doomed to fight against his will. The Israeli combatant “shoots and sobs”. Within the deluded Israeli mindset and historical narrative, the Israelis “seek peace” and it is somehow always the “others” who bring about hostility and violence. This outright self-deception is so imbued within the Israeli self image, something that allows the Israelis to launch and initiate one war after another while being totally convinced that it is always the “Arabs” who try to throw the Israeli into the sea.

In this sense, the Israeli “war on terror” should be seen as a battle against the terror within. The constant battle against the “Arabs” is an outlet that resolves the self-imposed Hebraic anxiety which the Israeli cannot handle or even confront. In that very sense, throwing white phosphorous on women, the elderly and children acts as a collective valium pill. It brings peace to the Israeli mind, it smoothes the terror within. Killing en masse resolves the insular Israeli collective state of fear. This explains how come 94 per cent of the Israeli Jewish population supported the last genocide in Gaza. The consequences are devastating. The majority of Israeli Jews not only say NO to “love thy neighbor”, they actually say YES to murder in broad daylight.

In their deluded mindset the Israelis are pushed into “no choice” wars “against their will”, in spite of the fact that they are “innocent victims”. In fact, this delusion – or cognitive dissonance – stands at the very core of the unethical Israeli existence. The Israeli is submerged in a selfish notion of blamelessness: it is somehow always the other who carries the guilt and is at fault. This total discrepancy between the Israeli self-perception i.e. “innocence” and actual Israeli practice i.e. barbarism without parallel, can be seen as a severe form of detachment verging on collective psychosis.

The case of Gilad Shalit embodies this discrepancy very well. Time after time we are asked by Israeli officials and Jewish lobbies to show our compassion to a combatant who was serving as post guard in the biggest prison in history. An American right winger, for instance, would probably have enough decency in him not to demand our compassion and empathy for a US marine that was injured while serving as a post guard in Guantànamo Bay. Similarly, not many would dare demand our compassion and empathy towards a German platoon that performed a role similar to Gilad Shalit’s in an East European concentration camp in the early 1940s. Moreover, could anyone imagine the kind of Jewish outrage that would be evoked by an imaginary campaign by a right-wing, white supremacist slogan that reads “Free Wolfgang Heim, Human Being, Aryan”?

As much as I understand Noam Shalit’s deep concerns about the fate of his son, I must advise him in the hope that he takes it into consideration. His son Gilad is not exactly an innocent angel. If anything, as with the rest of the Israelis, he is an integral part of the continuous Israeli sin. He was a soldier in a criminal army that serves a criminal cause that launches criminal wars. I honestly suggest to Noam Shalit to consider changing his rhetoric. He should drop his self-righteous preaching voice and replace it with either dignity or a desperate call for Hamas's mercy. You either acknowledge your son’s deeds and be proud of it as a militant nationalist Jew or you beg for Hamas’s kindness. If I were in his place, I would probably go for the second option. Noam Shalit had better drop the word hostage from his vocabulary. Neither he nor his son are Hamas’s hostages. If anything, they are both held hostage by a Jewish nationalist project that will bring the gravest disaster on the Jewish people. They are both prisoners of a criminal war against “thy neighbours”, the Palestinian civilian population.

Considering the crimes against humanity repeatedly committed by Israel, all that is left for the Jewish state is just rhetorical spin that becomes more and more delusional and ineffective. Thus, it didn’t really take me by surprise to find out that Noam Shalit is not just a concerned parent, but also a profound post-modernist polemicist . "Resistance against what? Against whom? “ wonders father Shalit, trying to dismiss the Palestinian cause altogether. You Hamas are taking us “hostages of symbols that at best belong to yesterday's wars, to yesterday's world, which has since changed beyond recognition".

Mr Shalit, I would like you to tell us all about what has changed “beyond recognition” (except the landscape of Gaza)? Please enlighten us all because, as far as we can see, you yourself still live on stolen Palestinian land, making the Biblical call for plunder into a contemporary, devastating reality. As far as we can see, your sons and daughters are still engaged in murderous genocidal practices as they have been for the last six decades.

Mr Shalit, I suggest that you wake up, and the sooner the better. Nothing really has changed, at least not on the Israeli side. The only change that I discern is the encouraging fact that you and your people do not win anymore. Yes, you manage to kill children, women and old people; yes, you have managed to drop unconventional weapons on civilian dwellings in the most populated area on this planet and, yet, you fail to win the war. Your military campaigns achieve nothing except death and carnage. Your murderous genocidal actions attained except to expose what the Jewish national project is all about and what the Israeli is capable of. Your imaginary power of deterrence is melting down as I write these words and Hamas rockets keep pounding southern Israel. Yet, the Jewish state has secured itself a prominent position as the embodiment of evil. If there is a “change beyond recognition” to be detected, it is the fact that after Gaza we all know who you are and what you stand for.

Gilad Atzmon is an Israeli-born musician, writer and anti-racism campaigner. A version of this article appeared in Palestine Think Tank.

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