Israel’s moral autocracy

After Gaza, Israel grapples with crisis of isolation

Israel, whose founding idea was branded as racism by the United Nations General Assembly in 1975 and which faced an Arab boycott for decades, is no stranger to isolation. But in the weeks since its Gaza war, and as it prepares to inaugurate a hawkish right-wing government, it is facing its worst diplomatic crisis in two decades.

Examples abound. Its sports teams have met hostility and violent protests in Sweden, Spain and Turkey. Mauritania has closed Israel’s embassy.

Relations with Turkey, an important Muslim ally, have suffered severely. A group of top international judges and human rights investigators recently called for an inquiry into Israel’s actions in Gaza. “Israel Apartheid Week” drew participants in 54 cities around the world this month, twice the number of last year, according to its organizers. And even in the American Jewish community, albeit in its liberal wing, there is a chill. [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — A wall of psychological isolation — the conviction that people located outside Israel can neither comprehend nor empathize with Israel’s existential condition — provides the petri dish within which the culture of extremism can grow. The adaptive and moderating force of countervailing views beyond the Israeli consensus gets sealed out.

Consider then that within such a condition — even while outside the Jewish state the possibility of a two-state solution has yet to be pronounced dead — Israel itself is on steady trajectory towards some form of totalitarianism.

Yet the looming threat we are repeatedly told comes from further east in the form of a nuclear-armed Islamic republic. But does it really?

A decade from now, Israel — in the name of necessity — may have abandoned its democratic identity. It is already a fully militarized society. It is the preeminent regional military power and it has already begun untethering itself from democracy. There are those who see the possibility of the failure of Zionism in apocalyptic terms and they are already within their reach a nuclear arsenal. What should we be afraid of?

Soldiers say IDF immoral in Gaza

The IDF did not behave morally during Operation Cast Lead, soldiers who had participated in the operation said during a post-op conference at the military academy at Oranim. The conference protocol was published Thursday.

One NCO told of the experiences that bothered him during the operation. “Prior to going into a crowded area… we had a meeting about the rules of engagement and opening fire within a city, because as you know we fired a lot of rounds and killed a lot of people in order for us not to be injured or shot at.”

“When we entered a house, we were supposed to bust down the door and start shooting inside and just go up story by story… I call that murder. Each story, if we identify a person, we shoot them. I asked myself – how is this reasonable?”

The NCO also related a story about an old woman who was crossing a main route who was shot by the soldiers. “I don’t know whether she was suspicious, not suspicious, I don’t know her story… I do know that my officer sent people to the roof in order to take her out… It was cold-blooded murder.”

Another NCO told of an incident in which a family was killed. “We had taken over the house… and the family was released and told to go right. A mother and two children got confused and went left… The sniper on the roof wasn’t told that this was okay and that he shouldn’t shoot… you can say he just did what he was told… he was told not to let anyone approach the left flank and he shot at them.”

“I don’t know whether he first shot at their feet or not (per IDF engagement instructions), but he killed them,” the NCO said.

When asked during the conference whether he had spoken to the sniper afterwards, he said no. “I think he felt horrible about it, that he had done what he was told. I know that most people I’ve talked to feel that the atmosphere in Gaza was that the lives of Palestinians were far less important than the live of our soldiers.”

“We expected to hold a discussion about the war, in which we would hear about the personal experiences and lessons of the soldiers, but we did not expect the testimonies that we heard,” Academy Head Danny Mazir told Ynet. “We were in total shock.” [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — Israel is very well-versed in the practice and value of public displays of soul-searching — witness the fact that the Oscar-contending “Waltz With Bashir” got promoted by the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

But self-criticism ultimately is of little value if it rests on a foundation of moral narcissism.

To suffer from, or in truth enjoy indulging in, moral narcissism is to be able to examine ones failings while retaining an unshakable conviction in ones virtue. Within this condition, self-examination, far from leading to any revelations, is in fact an expression of the underlying conceit of virtue.

Will these revelations about the immorality of the IDF in Gaza be of meaningful political and social consequence, or will they — as I would expect — be turned upside-down and become proof of Israel’s commitment to uphold the highest moral standards?

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1 thought on “Israel’s moral autocracy

  1. John Merryman

    What are morals?
    A moral code based on an overarching conflict between good and bad is flawed, because attraction to the beneficial and repulsion of the detrimental is the primordial binary code from which our intellectual process is constructed, not an ideal to be idolized. Between black and white are not just shades of grey, but all the colors of the spectrum.
    This simplistic view leaves no room for reciprocity, reaction, balance, law of unintended consequences, etc. In fact they are derided as moral relativism.
    The assumption is that if a little of something is good, a lot of it must be that much better, anything at all bad must be eternally bad and any compromise is weakness. The result is that the extremists are secure in their single mindedness.
    As for God, the absolute is basis, not apex, so the spiritual absolute would be the essence from which we rise, not an ideal from which we fell.
    Of course, logic isn’t a factor when it comes to religion.

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