My apartment in Tel Aviv is around the corner from Kikar Rabin, the central square that is the site of choice for demonstrations, celebrations and municipal events. It is also, of course, the place where former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, an event that transformed the plain and not particularly attractive square into a tourist attraction of sorts.
Prominent amongst the visitors to the square on any given day are groups of young American adults on so-called birthright tours, zionist propaganda missions sponsored by the Israeli government, US Jewish federations and a number of rich individuals, such as Charles Bronfman. The purpose of bringing these groups to Israel, according to the organization’s web site, is to “diminish the growing division between Israel and Jewish communities around the world; to strengthen the sense of solidarity among world Jewry; and to strengthen participants’ personal Jewish identity and connection to the Jewish people.”
Tel Aviv is a city of coffee bars, clubs, shopping and beach life. It has few sites of significant historical interest and does not lend itself easily to the needs of propaganda. So, Rabin Square, the place where a prime minister was assassinated by a political fanatic, appears to have become the selected location for lectures about the strength of Israeli democracy, the vibrancy of the Israeli legal system and all the other lies and half-truths on the birthright agenda.
Crossing the square yesterday, I overheard one of the group leaders explain to his charges that not even the assassin of a beloved prime minister was executed by the state of Israel. Throughout the history of Israel, only one person – the accursed Nazi Adolf Eichmann – has ever been executed, he explained earnestly. Israeli humanism does not tolerate the judicial taking of life.
Which is true, as far as it goes. The problem is that Israeli humanism just adores the extra-judicial taking of life, what is known locally as “targeted assassination.”
We’re far too humane and sensitive to execute a murderer after a trial, an appeal and so on, but we have absolutely no problem dropping a fucking bomb on him, sans judges, lawyers and pain-in-the-arse judicial proceedings. That, somehow, is OK; it passes the Israeli humanity test. Get a pilot or a soldier at the controls of a remote-control missile to do the killing and our self-satisfied sense of righteousness remains intact.
I wonder whether Sheikh Yassin, Abdul Aziz Rantisi, Salah Shehadeh and the hundreds of other victims of targeted assassination appreciate the difference. Do the 15 people, nine of them children, who were killed when an Israeli plane dropped a bomb on Shehade’s hiding place in a densely-populated neighborhood of Gaza City feel better for knowing that they were saved the hassle of a trial and hangman’s noose for the crime of being in the same place as a wanted terrorist?
Or is it only the extraordinarily supple and sophisticated Israeli mind that grasps these finer distinctions?
And that’s only the victims who fall into the category of targeted assassination, which, as far as I know, requires some sort of approval at the civilian level. What about the thousands (it’s impossible to know the exact figure, but I think thousands is a fair assumption) of people killed by the military and border police in the course of their activities? Would all of them have been found guilty by a court? Would all of them have received capital punishment?
We’ll never know, will we? The dead are dead.
Israel has only executed one person throughout it’s history. One of the many zionist myths swallowed whole by a punch-drunk, indifferent Israeli public and the diaspora herd. Not as insidious as “they listened to the Arab radio and ran away” or “Israel has the most moral army in the world,” but an important brick in the edifice of lies that we have built to sustain our colonial way of life.
The silver lining is that the kids listening to the guide’s rubbish seemed totally bored by the whole thing. It was relatively early in the morning, the sun was already pretty oppressive and the group gave the impression of floating on a sea of hormones and exhaustion. I like to think that they were in it for the sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, which is really the only justification for the existence of the appallingly-named birthright.