Monday, September 15, 2014

Democracies Get the Governments They Deserve-- Alexis de Tocqueville

Two days ago 43 members of the Israeli army’s military intelligence unit (Unit 8200), mainly staffed by what are considered to be the “elite” of Israeli military recruits, signed an open letter to Netanyahu and military leaders, saying they would refuse to continue to serve. The “intelligence” they collected, they charged, was not only for genuine security purposes but was directed against ordinary Palestinian civilians, especially to coerce them into collaborating with the occupation. As a Haaretz editorial summed up the letter, the information the unit was collecting was used “for political persecution, to recruit informers and to extort them by various means, including exploiting the sexual orientation, illnesses and distress of innocent Palestinians.”

Since these practices obviously reflect high Israeli policy, one might expect that the leaders of the government and the military would seek to deflect the charges with standard government lies—for example, by saying that the charges would be “investigated,” even though of course they wouldn’t be. Not Netanyahu, however: as has been the case throughout his entire career, ordinary lies are not sufficient. What he said was that the charges were “baseless slander,” directed at “the most moral army in the world.” There’s a well-known psychological term for such lies: “psychopathic.” Alternatively, when other governments in other times told those kind of lies, they were known as “The Big Lie Technique.” Draw your own comparisons.

To be sure, Netanyahu was not alone. As a Haaretz editorial put it: “A near wall-to-wall coalition, from the Labor Party to the extreme right, vied over which could condemn its signatories more harshly.” A former head of Unit 8200 said that they should be investigated “in the interrogation rooms of the Shin Bet security service or the investigations unit of the Military Police.” Given the well-known “interrogation” methods of Israel, he was essentially saying they should be tortured.

As for how Israeli society as a whole has reacted, the great Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy wrote the following: "The radio and television stations rocked with laughter. The commentators vied with each other for adjectives: 'scandalous,' 'negligible,' 'spoiled brats' and, worst of all, 'politicos' and 'lefties' No one came to the defense of a group of people who, until Thursday, were a source of pride."

    The Israeli government and military aside, then, evidently very few Israelis are interested in the grave charges of the Unit 8200 dissidents.  Per de Tocqueville: in the Israeli democracy (such as it is) the people have the government they deserve.


pabelmont said...

I've long held that BDS should target all of Israel (sorry to the few "lefties" and to the many Palestinians among them), for it is evident that, broadly speaking, the entier society supports Israel's behavior ranging from the merely unethical to crimes and war-crimes.

This article explains why: Israeli democracy supports what Israel does, and only Israeli democracy, that is, a change of mind by a broad concensus, can change Issrael's direction. BDS might help with that change of mind.

David Judah said...

I fully agree with your assessment of Netanyahu as psychopathic

I have a suspicion that these extremely brave 43 heroes underestimated the degree of chastisement they would receive. Or I could say overestimated the sympathy they thought that they might receive from the government and general public. I think that they and all of us who can see so clearly just how rapidly the state of Israel is descending into a right wing, fascist apartheid abyss from which there is no return, are still being caught out at just how rapid the decline actually is.

When the news broke in the Guardian here in the UK I was actually quite excited and started sending everyone links to the article with the words "a ray of hope!". I actually believed that these 43 courageous people, who have sacrificed, most probably, any real future in that country to tell the truth, we're going to be the catalyst that would at least start a real and proper moral debate. I really though this would lead to a re-evaluation of the methods used and a new awareness about just how disgraceful and debauched their treatment of these innocent people actually is.

We'll I was completely wrong... Again! Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, it has. I scoured the Israeli press and all I was reading was hatred and scorn towards these people all the way from the left to the very right. It was only Haaretz and a few others that supported them but all in all that whole segment combined doesn't even amount to 10% of the population.

I can't believe what I'm witnessing and I wonder if the group of 43 would have come out if they knew that this would be the thanks they would receive for their incredible courage.

There is no hope. It's over. Pressure from the outside is the only way, period