In today’s Repubblica, the major Italian newspaper, an article reports the Italian Jewish Communities’ meeting that has been attended by the main protagonists of the Italian political world, with the Prime Minister Romano Prodi in primis.
Among the several issues that were addressed, great attention has been given to the tragic newness of a fact never before heard, that’s the proliferation of an unaccountable anti-Semitic feeling, as well as to the facts afflicting the Middle-East in these days: concerning this, a clear and firm stance against the resorting to violence and terrorism has been demanded of the Italian politicians by the leaders of the Jewish Communities. In particular, some discrepancy has taken place around the concept of “equidistance” to what the Palestinian cause and the Zionist one represent.
Dealing with such a democratic principle, expressed originally by the Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema, the Jewish Communities have showed some measure of perplexity, especially as to the Hamlet-like doubt of how it can be possible to compare Jerusalem’s democratic and liberal government with a mass of religious extremists who have seized the reins of the Palestinian cause.
In the case in point, quite emblematic are the worried complaints from one of the most prominent members from the Jewish Communities, Mr. Riccardo Pacifici.When questioned by the interviewer (“What words would you have liked to hear from Prodi?”), Mr. Pacifici retorted: “Fundamentally, this government must tell us, clearly, once and for all, how it’s possible to compare a terrorist and criminal government like the Hamas one with the democratic one of Israel that, legitimately, defends its own citizens from the endless criminal attacks striking defenceless civilians, children, ordinary people. Maybe Israel’s government might even be blamed for some of its decisions but not for the founding right to react and protect its own people. About these matters, we expect some courage from the Centre-Left but we are still at the beginning and we’re willing to wait.”
What can one say?
Personally, regarding myself as proudly democratic and a freedom-lover, I can’t but agree to Mr. Pacifici’s anxieties as he, fortunately, reassured me about the democratic character of the state of Israel. I had some doubts but, quite luckily, there are so many reassuring and persuasive people just like Pacifici. How can one not agree with him on what he expressed? I’m totally with him when he says that a state has the right to protect its own citizens from external aggressions: after all, the Israeli reaction can’t be defined as retaliation, given the moderate and, above all, pondered character of the reply. Indeed, it’s about a great step forward for those who, 24 years ago, after a similar situation (Katyusha rocket launches by the Palestinians and the following “Peace in Galilee” operation), set off a far harsher and firmer reaction through carpet bombings over Beirut.
Nor do I understand all this hubbub surrounding the Israeli answer to the Palestinian attack. After all, what happened that was so scandalous? The Palestinians have killed two soldiers and kidnapped a third one, the Israeli government decides to let them pay for it, while availing, amongst the other things, of putting an end to the Qassam rockets launches, and then its army swarms into the Gaza Strip, with great deployment of armour, fight bombers, artillery. They dubbed it “Summer rain” operation. I want to point out how very gifted with some kind of humour the Israelis are, something that makes them even more likeable to me: the Palestinians, by now at the limit of their strength, haven’t even got enough water to drink or wash themselves, and here are the Israelis who, obviously, contrive a magnificent “summer rain” to cater to the thirst of the former.
Mr. Pacifici forgot to say that the Palestinians, besides being terrorists, are also sulky and touchy whereas the Israelis are brimming with cheerfulness, humour and joy of living from every pore.
Reprisal, revenge? What? How can you state this?
Tzahal’s reaction is definitely pondered and honest. The Palestinians, the same old cavemen, had no right to fly off the handle and lose their sense of reason. After all the Israelis had been doing nothing but helping them. After the landslide victory of Hamas in the elections, they kept them on strict rations, on a diet, a fact that does them good into the bargain, considered that they risk becoming even more obese than the Americans. What the hell did they have to complain about?
Maybe about the tragedy at the Gaza beach, where the members of a nice family intent upon enjoying the imminent arrival of summer died? Go on! Super-trustworthy and reliable internal investigations, carried out by the military commands, have rabbinically and incontrovertibly shown (we didn’t shoot, so the blame must be set upon someone else) that it was about an unexploded mine originally placed by Hamas. Why ever do you always dare accuse the Israelis with no proof? That’s why I consider Jerusalem’s behaviour as to what happened absolutely as sensible.
It doesn’t seem so severe to me that Israel have entered the Gaza Strip, launched a limited attack, kidnapped Parliament members and Hamas Ministers and, to end with, also decided to pull down bridges and power stations.
Of course, there’s much fuss around the damaged power station. Many wonder what was the reason. Evidently many are not that acquainted with military strategies. Are we joking or what? The Palestinians abduct a young and helpless soldier: what to do now? It’s obvious: one leaves 800 thousand people in the darkness (btw, it’s about a measure thoroughly consistent with the previous “cuts”: after money, after food, now, grabbing the opportunity, the Israelis cut also the electric energy. After all, what are they, the Palestinians, going to do with the electric energy if they haven’t even got the money to pay for it? The reasoning fits perfectly!) In this way, it’ll be easier to find him, given that the terrorists can’t count on those wonderful super-technological little toys of which, on the contrary, the Israeli army is well provided. How can you compare the difficulties for a terrorist to hide a war prisoner with the chances for the Israeli soldiers to find him in the dark, using the infra-red rays and catching the foe by surprise? It’s clear that such a tactic works well and the advantage for the Israeli soldiers is huge. Once the den is found, it’ll be an easy task to free the kidnapped. Well, who will lose a bit by all this is the population, yet, on the other hand, it has its own faults too, having backed Hamas, thus it’s quite fair that it also pays the price. After all, when all this is over, they will be able to return to the past situation and, who knows, perhaps they might even gain something more through the repayments they certainly will be demanding to the electric company out of the inconveniences that were caused to them.
We must be honest. Mr. Pacifici is totally right. Terrorism is a bad plague, a display of the most bestial and backward instincts of human civilization, an inhuman and unfathomable act.
The only remark, the only real reproach and regret that one might cherish is that all this fuss started after a Palestinian assault against an Israeli military post. One would think that, maybe, to the Palestinians it would be worth their while to take up again the old attacks against the civilians at the restaurants in Tel Aviv and Haifa, given that, at least in that case, the Israeli reaction would usually limit itself to a raid with Apaches and to the physical destruction of some terrorist leader.
Now, on the contrary, they have dared strike soldiers and look at the mess that has broken out. Actually, in this respect, it nearly seems that the Israelis feel more shocked by an attack against their own soldiers than by one against their own civilians. Yet, as already said, I wouldn’t be that drastic. Terrorism is a big ugly beast. Will it be ever possible that people aspiring to self-determination and independence may understand how stupid they are in their resorting to armed struggle, to guerrilla warfare, to violence as a whole?
Mr. Pacifici is perfectly right: one can’t put the Israeli democratic government and the Palestinian terrorists on the same level. It’s a blasphemy. I say: couldn’t the Palestinians put forward their reasonable vindications in a fair, pacific and democratic way as, for example, the Israelis themselves did? Why don’t they learn from the latter, from Israeli history, how to get independence?
For those who are interested and acquainted with these matters, the huge difference of style and method in bringing forward one’s own ideals can’t but be glaring.
In 2001, a PLNF command killed a member of the Israeli government, Rehavam “Gandhi” Zeevi. Ok, yes, he was a bit half-mad, considered that it was about the most vigorous champion of the “forced transfer” policy, that’s to say the expulsion of all the Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank towards the bordering Arab countries (I notice, once again, some humoristic implication in the fact, if one looks at the office held by the person: Sharon must have been so hypnotized and entranced by the idea of the transfer of the Palestinians if, in the end, he decided to appoint Zeevi as Minister of Tourism. Thus, the latter would have to see to organizing the trips. These Israelis are really smart!) And, yes indeed, maybe one might have something to complain about that Gandhi nick between the name and surname (I don’t dare imagine what it would happen if one did try to utter something like Adolf “Gandhi” Hitler….). Anyway, however mad he was, nobody had the right to take his life, even more so a group of relentless blood-thirsty terrorists. A completely different way of acting, doubtlessly, from the democracy showed by the Israelis in the past, their blatant repugnance for blood-curdling, violent and murderous methods.
How can one not bring to mind, for instance, the exemplary treatment that was given to the UN envoy in 1948, the Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte? Notwithstanding deep dissensions with him, the Zionists were lavishing him with a majestic and solemn work of persuasion, with everything inspired to the utmost respect for a so much important international authority. Count Bernadotte was invited to take part in negotiations, the most accurate personal attentions were granted to him, he was lodged at the best hotels, he took part in very friendly talks with all the Israeli fighting fractions. Finally, he withdrew from his anti-Zionist stances and set aside all his doubts over the honesty of the Zionist project. It was about a miracle of human sensitivity, of democratic values and of tolerance. And the Israelis were widely rewarded for this great humanity of theirs. In fact, once Israel was born a year later, the state was allowed to enter the UN and, moreover, one of the main authors of that diplomatic masterpiece that was interwoven with Bernadotte, Ytzach Shamir, actually was later to become Prime Minister.
The diversity between Israelis and Palestinians, the kindness and humanity of the former and the latter’s relentlessness, is even clearer if one looks also at the cruellest and most execrable examples. Even in sorrow and violence, the Israelis have always been able to distinguish themselves from the brutality and the wilful violence of the Palestinians.
Take in consideration any Palestinian attack against restaurants or cafes. How is it possible to compare those brutal performances of wilful violence with the struggle that led to Israeli independence? Of course, also the Israelis have fought and killed but they have never resorted to the terrorist weapon. And if sometimes some improper action has occurred, it certainly was an accidental, chance episode, certainly not on account of some alleged murderous instinct of some Israeli.
Many are used to rebuking them for the shameful action at the King David Hotel in 1946, yet it has by now been proven that it was just an unlucky accident. The Israeli partisans (an Irgun-Lehi joint commando) had no intention of carrying out such a massacre, it’s actually true that, with a style reminding one of the ETA, they had the admirable humanity of warning people in advance, through a phone call, that within a short time a bomb would blow up and that, therefore, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for people to leave the area. If 91 persons died, the Israeli fighters certainly can’t be blamed for it. There were possibly some problems with the phone line, or maybe whoever was phoning was about to run out of tokens. No, dear friends, we can’t be so unfair and severe with the Israelis, we can’t accuse and put them on the same level of those who attempt civilians’ lives and shed the innocent ones’ blood.
Israel, in these last years, has been torn by an endless set of terrorist attacks that have not only crippled the population but also made it collapse into a psychological ravine made of terror and paranoia. Whenever has it happened to witness some dreadful crime committed by the Israelis? Are you still living on earth or what? What do you have in your heads?
The Israeli fighters have always taken a liking to and welcomed their Palestinian neighbours. They have always treated them with kid gloves, they have nourished the utmost respect towards them. Or, at least, towards people who were clearly pacific and horrified by violence.
With the Palestinian peasants, the workers, the tradesmen, the notables, the employees and all those who clearly and undeniably eschew violence, the Israelis have always proved to be able to live side by side and cooperate. With the pacific ones, exclusively devoted to work and not concerned with politics, the Israelis have never had troubles. Just as in the case of the pacific village of Deir Yassin in 1948.
The Israelis have always been concerned about the events and the sufferings of the Palestinians. They even gave them new homes and lodgings in the refugee camps, outright wonders of modern construction. They even supplied them with these new houses while helping them dispose of the old ones, by teaching them new and sophisticated techniques to pull them down, by using explosives, as happened in Qibya in 1953 (and also in other occasions).
The Israelis are friends to the Palestinians, they’re their brothers, their colleagues at work places. The Israelis are even used to welcoming the Palestinians coming back from the fields, thus showing them great affection and benevolence, as was the case of Kefar Kassem in 1956.
Well, how can one conceive of such a concept, so abstruse and groundless as the one that was expressed by D’Alema, the so-called “equidistance”? How can one compare Hamas terrorists, a movement not recognizing Israel and willing to throw all the Jews into sea, to a such a tolerant and democratic government as the Israeli one?
Frankly, I can’t convince myself of all this animosity and acrimony towards Israel and Zionism. Something eerie and unfathomable must be escaping me if, in 21st century, Israel can’t even react to a brutal and cowardly attack against its own citizens and soldiers without raising all these hateful, slandering campaigns and these feelings of animosity against itself. Something inexplicable and horrific must be darkening the vision of many people if they don’t realize the democratic and tolerant character of Israel, if they aren’t able to regard the Law of Return as a fair and just law, if persons don’t understand the security necessities of the Israelis or if many consider as excessive some ways of acting from the Israelis.
What are all these protests for? What is all this hubbub and astonishment for? How can one have something to complain about in the behaviour Israel these days? Mr. Pacifici is absolutely right: it’s not Israel who has any guilt, it’s the anti-Semitism that is being revived, thus leading people to entertain unreasonable feelings of hostility against a people who is simply defending itself. And thank goodness it is only defending itself, dear Mr. Pacifici. Just imagine what massacre it would be should it attack……
Translated into English by the author. Diego Traversa is a translator and contributor to Tlaxcala and Peacepalestine (http://peacepalestine.blogspot.com/). Tlaxcala (www.tlaxcala.es) is the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation is on copyleft. It may be freely reproduced as long as the source is cited and nothing is changed.