Skip to main content
Home ×

Uri Avnery: The Boss Has Gone Mad

--- On Sat,


The Boss Has Gone Mad

Uri Avnery
<http://www.nytimes. com/pages/ opinion/index. html>

169 YEARS before the Gaza War, Heinrich Heine wrote a
premonitory poem of 12 lines, under the title "To
Edom". The German-Jewish poet was talking about
Germany, or perhaps all the nations of Christian
Europe. This is what he wrote (in my rough
translation) :

  For a thousand years and more
  We have had an understanding
  You allow me to breathe
  I accept your crazy raging

  Sometimes, when the days get darker
  Strange moods come upon you
  Till you decorate your claws
  With the lifeblood from my veins

  Now our friendship is firmer
  Getting stronger by the day
  Since the raging started in me
  Daily more and more like you.

Zionism, which arose some 50 years after this was
written, is fully realizing this prophesy. We Israelis
have become a nation like all nations, and the memory
of the Holocaust causes us, from time to time, to
behave like the worst of them. Only a few of us know
this poem, but Israel as a whole lives it out.

In this war, politicians and generals have repeatedly
quoted the words: "The boss has gone mad!" originally
shouted by vegetable vendors in the market, in the
sense of "The boss has gone crazy and is selling the
tomatoes at a loss!" But in the course of time the jest
has turned into a deadly doctrine that often appears in
Israeli public discourse: in order to deter our
enemies, we must behave like madmen, go on the rampage,
kill and destroy mercilessly.

In this war, this has become political and military
dogma: only if we kill "them" disproportionately,
killing a thousand of "them" for ten of "ours", will
they understand that it's not worth it to mess with us.
It will be "seared into their consciousness" (a
favorite Israeli phrase these days). After this, they
will think twice before launching another Qassam rocket
against us, even in response to what we do, whatever
that may be.

It is impossible to understand the viciousness of this
war without taking into account the historical
background: the feeling of victimhood after all that
has been done to the Jews throughout the ages, and the
conviction that after the Holocaust, we have the right
to do anything, absolutely anything, to defend
ourselves, without any inhibitions due to law or

WHEN THE killing and destruction in Gaza were at their
height, something happened in faraway America that was
not connected with the war, but was very much connected
with it. The Israeli film "Waltz with Bashir" was
awarded a prestigious prize. The media reported it with
much joy and pride, but somehow carefully managed not
to mention the subject of the film. That by itself was
an interesting phenomenon: saluting the success of a
film while ignoring its contents.

The subject of this outstanding film is one of the
darkest chapters in our history: the Sabra and Shatila
massacre. In the course of Lebanon War I, a Christian
Lebanese militia carried out, under the auspices of the
Israeli army, a heinous massacre of hundreds of
helpless Palestinian refugees who were trapped in their
camp, men, women, children and old people. The film
describes this atrocity with meticulous accuracy,
including our part in it.

All this was not even mentioned in the news about the
award. At the festive ceremony, the director of the
film did not avail himself of the opportunity to
protest against the events in Gaza. It is hard to say
how many women and children were killed while this
ceremony was going on - but it is clear that the
massacre in Gaza is much worse than that 1982 event,
which moved 400 thousand Israelis to leave their homes
and hold a spontaneous mass protest in Tel-Aviv. This
time, only 10 thousand stood up to be counted.

The official Israeli Board of Inquiry that investigated
the Sabra massacre found that the Israeli government
bore "indirect responsibility" for the atrocity.
Several senior officials and officers were suspended.
One of them was the division commander, Amos Yaron. Not
one of the other accused, from the Minister of Defense,
Ariel Sharon, to the Chief of Staff, Rafael Eitan,
spoke a word of regret, but Yaron did express remorse
in a speech to his officers, and admitted: "Our
sensitivities have been blunted".

BLUNTED SENSITIVITIES are very evident in the Gaza War.

Lebanon War I lasted for 18 years and more than 500 of
our soldiers died. The planners of Lebanon War II
decided to avoid such a long war and such heavy Israeli
casualties. They invented the "mad boss" principle:
demolishing whole neighborhoods, devastating areas,
destroying infrastructures. In 33 days of war, some
1000 Lebanese, almost all of them civilians, were
killed - a record already broken in this war by the
17th day. Yet in that war our army suffered casualties
on the ground, and public opinion, which in the
beginning supported the war with the same enthusiasm as
this time, changed rapidly.

The smoke from Lebanon War II is hanging over the Gaza
war. Everybody in Israel swore to learn its lessons.
And the main lesson was: not to risk the life of even
one single soldier. A war without casualties (on our
side). The method: to use the overwhelming firepower of
our army to pulverize everything standing in its way
and to kill everybody moving in the area. To kill not
only the fighters on the other side, but every human
being who might possibly turn out to harbor hostile
intentions, even if they are obviously an ambulance
attendant, a driver in a food convoy or a doctor saving
lives. To destroy every building from which our troops
could conceivably be shot at - even a school full of
refugees, the sick and the wounded. To bomb and shell
whole neighborhoods, buildings, mosques, schools, UN
food convoys, even ruins under which the injured are

The media devoted several hours to the fall of a Qassam
missile on a home in Ashkelon, in which three residents
suffered from shock, and did not waste many words on
the forty women and children killed in a UN school,
from which "we were shot at" - an assertion that was
quickly exposed as a blatant lie.

The firepower was also used to sow terror - shelling
everything from a hospital to a vast UN food depot,
from a press vantage point to the mosques. The standard
pretext: "we were shot at from there".

This would have been impossible, had not the whole
country been infected with blunted sensitivities.
People are no longer shocked by the sight of a
mutilated baby, nor by children left for days with the
corpse of their mother, because the army did not let
them leave their ruined home. It seems that almost
nobody cares anymore: not the soldiers, not the pilots,
not the media people, not the politicians, not the
generals. A moral insanity, whose primary exponent is
Ehud Barak. Though even he may be upstaged by Tzipi
Livni, who smiled while talking about the ghastly

Even Heinrich Heine could not have imagined that.

THE LAST DAYS were dominated by the "Obama effect".

We are on board an airplane, and suddenly a huge black
mountain appears out of the clouds. In the cockpit,
panic breaks out: How to avoid a collision?

The planners of the war chose the timing with care:
during the holidays, when everybody was on vacation,
and while President Bush was still around. But they
somehow forgot to take into consideration a fateful
date: next Tuesday Barack Obama will enter the White

This date is now casting a huge shadow on events. The
Israeli Barak understands that if the American Barack
gets angry, that would mean disaster. Conclusion: the
horrors of Gaza must stop before the inauguration. This
week that determined all political and military
decisions. Not "the number of rockets", not "victory",
not "breaking Hamas".

WHEN THERE is a ceasefire, the first question will be:
Who won?

In Israel, all the talk is about the "picture of
victory" - not victory itself, but the "picture". That
is essential, in order to convince the Israeli public
that the whole business has been worthwhile. At this
moment, all the thousands of media people, to the very
last one, have been mobilized to paint such a
"picture". The other side, of course, will paint a
different one.

The Israeli leaders will boast of two "achievements" :
the end of the rockets and the sealing of the Gaza-
Egypt border (the co-called "Philadelphi route".
Dubious achievements: the launching of the Qassams
could have been prevented without a murderous war, if
our government had been ready to negotiate with Hamas
after they won the Palestinian elections. The tunnels
under the Egyptian border would not have been dug in
the first place, if our government had not imposed the
deadly blockade on the Strip.

But the main achievement of the war planners lies in
the very barbarity of their plan: the atrocities will
have, in their view, a deterrent effect that will hold
for a long time.

Hamas, on the other side, will assert that their
survival in the face of the mighty Israeli war machine,
a tiny David against a giant Goliath, is by itself a
huge victory. According to the classic military
definition, the winner in a battle is the army that
remains on the battlefield when it's over. Hamas
remains. The Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip still
stands, in spite of all the efforts to eliminate it.
That is a significant achievement.

Hamas will also point out that the Israeli army was not
eager to enter the Palestinian towns, in which their
fighters were entrenched. And indeed: the army told the
government that the conquest of Gaza city could cost
the lives of about 200 soldiers, and no politician was
ready for that on the eve of elections.

The very fact that a guerrilla force of a few thousand
lightly armed fighters held out for long weeks against
one of the world's mightiest armies with enormous
firepower, will look to millions of Palestinians and
other Arabs and Muslims, and not only to them, like an
unqualified victory.

In the end, an agreement will be concluded that will
include the obvious terms. No country can tolerate its
inhabitants being exposed to rocket fire from beyond
the border, and no population can tolerate a choking
blockade. Therefore (1) Hamas will have to give up the
launching of missiles, (2) Israel will have to open
wide the crossings between the Gaza Strip and the
outside world, and (3) the entry of arms into the Strip
will be stopped (as far as possible), as demanded by
Israel. All this could have happened without war, if
our government had not boycotted Hamas.

HOWEVER, THE worst results of this war are still
invisible and will make themselves felt only in years
to come: Israel has imprinted on world consciousness a
terrible image of itself. Billions of people have seen
us as a blood-dripping monster. They will never again
see Israel as a state that seeks justice, progress and
peace. The American Declaration of Independence speaks
with approval of "a decent respect to the opinions of
mankind". That is a wise principle.

Even worse is the impact on hundreds of millions of
Arabs around us: not only will they see the Hamas
fighters as the heroes of the Arab nation, but they
will also see their own regimes in their nakedness:
cringing, ignominious, corrupt and treacherous.

The Arab defeat in the 1948 war brought in its wake the
fall of almost all the existing Arab regimes and the
ascent of a new generation of nationalist leaders,
exemplified by Gamal Abd-al-Nasser. The 2009 war may
bring about the fall of the current crop of Arab
regimes and the ascent of a new generation of leaders -
Islamic fundamentalists who hate Israel and all the

In coming years it will become apparent that this war
was sheer madness. The boss has indeed gone mad - in
the original sense of the word.

____________ _________ _________ _________ ______

Portside aims to provide material of interest
to people on the left that will help them to
interpret the world and to change it.

Submit via email: moderator@portside. org
Submit via the Web: submit
Frequently asked questions: faq
Subscribe: subscribe
Unsubscribe: unsubscribe
Account assistance: contact
Search the archives: archive
To subscribe to the group, send an email to:

Please restrict your messages to subject matter related to the Middle East.
Recent Activity
Visit Your Group
Yahoo! News

Get it all here

Breaking news to

entertainment news

Search Ads

Get new customers.

List your web site

in Yahoo! Search.

Support Group

Lose lbs together

Share your weight-

loss successes.



Politica dei commenti: Si prega di scrivere i vostri commenti in base all'argomento di questa pagina di distacco. I commenti contenenti un collegamento non verranno visualizzati prima dell'approvazione.
Open Comment
Close Comment