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Uri Avnery / 27.7.01

Something is Rotten in the State of Israel

There is no international law against stupidity. Therefore, Karmi Gilon cannot be tried on this account.

The foolish actions of the Ambassador-on-the-way (the way home) start with his agreeing to become the Israeli ambassador in Denmark in the first place. Denmark is a very sensitive country. For some reason, the Danes don’t like torture, nor do they like torturers. Why would a person who headed the Israeli Security Service (nicknamed Shin-Bet or Shabak, by its Hebrew initials), at a time when it practiced wholesale torture, insist on serving in Denmark of all places? Why should he not be content with the post of ambassador in Guatemala or the Congo?

One could phrase it like this: Early in life a person must decide what he wants to become when he grows up. He can either become a Shin-Betnick or an ambassador to Denmark. He can’t become both.

But Gilon accepted the job. That was folly #1. It was nothing compared to folly #2: After the outcry in Denmark had already started, Gilon undertook to explain to the slow-witted Danes that torturing Palestinians was not only extremely important, but also that the Shin-Bet would be well-advised to resort to it again (if indeed it has ever been stopped).

The resulting outcry induced the Danish government to consider arresting His Excellency on arrival.

The only diplomatic thing for the ambassador to do now is to break his leg diplomatically, so that he will be compelled to give up the post. If he does not do so voluntarily, Moderate Physical Pressure should be applied.

This affair has another aspect that should be considered. On the morrow of the Six-Day War, the prophet Isayah (Leibowitz) prophesied that the occupation would turn us into a nation of foremen and Shin-Betnicks. This prophesy has been fulfilled. In other countries, Secret Service people work in the dark. Even after becoming pensioners, they keep quiet. But in Israel, they are elected to the Knesset, figure in the gossip columns, star in high society parties, shoot their mouths off in talk-shows and write commentaries in the papers. Now they are being sent abroad as ambassadors.

And Foreign Minister Shimon Peres explains that Gilon, the great patriot, acted according to the laws of Israel and only followed orders. That tells the Danes that something is rotten in the state of Israel. "Only followed orders" sounds awful to people with a memory. The Danes, it seems, remember.

It is to be hoped that the Gilon affair will put an end to these nominations. The slogan will be: Shin-Betnick, Stay Home!

Parallel to the Gilon business, the Sharon affair is taking place in Belgium. This, too, has far-reaching implications.

It started years ago, but nobody noticed at the time. General Amos Yaron, a star of the Sabra and Shatila affair, was sent as military attache to the United States and Canada. When the massacre occurred, Yaron was the commanding officer in the area. Elli Hbeika, the Phalangist commander, orchestrated the massacre from the roof of Yaron’s command post,. Yaron’s officers heard what was happening and reported to him. After the war, Yaron – to his credit – admitted that "our senses had become blunted".

As military attache, Yaron did not encounter any difficulty in the States. But in Canada he hit a wall. The Canadians just did not want to see his face. He acted prudently and a scandal was avoided. Now he serves a Director General of the Ministry of Defense.

His boss, Ariel Sharon, has never admitted to blunted senses. Even now, when proceedings have started against him in Belgium for his part in the Sabra and Shatila atrocities, he professes to be a righteous man. "This is not a personal matter," he told reporters, "It is a matter of the State of Israel." ("It is not a personal matter" has always been Sharon’s preferred stock-phrase.)

Not a personal matter? A matter of the State of Israel? Very sorry, we are the citizen of Israel and it most certainly is not a matter of ours. We did not take a gang of certified murderers, who had already committed atrocities in half a dozen Palestinian camps, and put them into the defenseless Sabra and Shatila camps. We did not light the night for them, nor provide them with tractors to cover the bodies. If that was a war crime, it is a very personal affair of Sharon and his entourage.

I object to the involvement of the legal apparatus of the state, led by the pussy-footing Attorney General, in Sharon’s defense in my name and at my expense.

All these affairs have a common denominator: Something has changed in the world. The sooner this is understood in Israel, the better for many people, soldiers and functionaries.

At the beginning of the new century, at long last, humanity has woken up and started to deal with war crimes, the bane of the 20th century. The international criminal court is on the way, and in many countries public sentiment demands that war-criminals, like the pirates of old, should be tried and punished in any country that catches them.

This movement will become stronger and stronger. Belgium is a pioneer. Little Denmark will serve as a model for other civilized countries. "For the law shall go forth from Brussels, and the word of humanity from Copenhagen". It may be that because of its black past, Europe is now so eager to put an end to atrocities.

Every minister, member of the Knesset, general and private must engrave this now on his heart: You are personally responsible for every atrocity in which you take part. No more can you hide behind "I received instructions" or "I only followed orders". Somebody may catch you in a Paris nightclub or in the mountains of Nepal.

Recently, Gush Shalom formulated a TV ad for soldiers, warning them of this danger. The Voice of Israel refused to broadcast it. Perhaps the Supreme Court will be asked to intervene. But if I were now a reserve soldier, I would be very cautious.

In the infamous Kafr Kassem massacre affair (1956), the Judge Binjamin Halevy wrote about a "black flag" waving over illegal orders, which soldiers must refuse to follow. He was referring to the law of the state, but now it has become the law of the international community. This black flag is waving over many orders given daily in the occupied territories.

The Minister of Transportation, Ephraim Sneh, recently burst out: "You (Sharon) will not drag me with you to the Hague!" He meant, of course, the international war crimes court. If I were a general, I would be saying exactly that to the Chief-of-Staff, Shaul Mofaz.

A new games has started, and the rules have changed. The world is telling us: You have been warned!

Uri Avnery
haGalil onLine 29-07-2001

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