Superficial milestones like “International Women’s Week” or some such thing should be treated with great suspicion. Suddenly in all the newspapers we see well-timed solicited articles that market the subject and focus on it with great intensity only to forget it and neglect it the following week. As usual, the newspapers dealt with the subject masterfully for the most part, and gave great emphasis, not by chance, on experiences from the army and on the good times at Military Training Camp 12, which most Israeli women I have known loathed with all their hearts. Oriental Jewish women and Arab women who do tedious work in factories for pennies are almost completely absent from these articles, to say nothing of the women who have lost even that meager support and have dropped out of the labour market only to observe, from the distance of millions of years of alienation, speeches about the success of Bibi Netanyahu and his collaborators as they celebrate the “recovery of the economy” at the expense of the people who are supposed to live in it and enjoy the fruits of their labour.
I also enjoyed the radiant smile of the charming Miki Haimovitch [an Israeli television news-reader, and a woman – trans.] and I even identified with the protest against salarial discrimination against women, but because all the elites – from the Zionist left, by way of Shinui and the Labour people all the way to the majority of the members of the Likud faction in the Knesset – rallied around a budget that will perpetuate discrimination and hardship for many years to come, I was not particularly impressed with the crocodile tears in the newspapers that sold their souls to the Moloch of materialism. The sated hedonists in our population now have a pretext to avoid dealing with societal problems in general, and the matter of discrimination against women in particular, to say nothing about the unreserved willingness to pass by in silence the corrupt practices of governing circles, including the Sharon family. The “Disengagement” has become a pretext to legitimize acts that must not be done.
The tradition of evading and shirking is a long one. Moderate opponents of the occupation refused to deal with the human rights of the Palestinians on the claim that they were focusing only on the political dimension and not on “details”. Their silence permitted terrible oppression that has lasted 38 years now, and the muddying of Israel’s name all over the world. These linguistic convolutions are now allowing supporters of war crimes in the occupied territories to dissociate themselves from all the atrocities, and even to claim that from the judicial point of view Israel is not even an occupying power. Shamefully, this idiotic claim, along with a long list of other conservative, nationalistic and baseless claims have been expressed at the climax of this celebratory week by none other than a woman, who answers to the name of Penina Sharvit-Baruch. She is serving as the head of the International Law Department of the Israeli armed forces’ Judge Advocate-General’s office. In view of what is going on in the Territories I would call her the head of the International Law Distortion Department, and behind her refined exterior (would I characterize a male prosecutor that way? The answer is yes) lurks a judicial Dr. Strangelove whose only role is to prove the worm clean [to justify a wrong – trans.], to certify the impure as kosher and to whitewash the bloodstains.
As is the way of extreme right-wingers all over the world, Col. Sharvit-Baruch loathes the liberal tendency in the international community, and tries to be clever and to play tricks on them to allow Israel to continue to occupy, to demolish houses and to execute people without trial while causing great harm to innocents. She is not ashamed of targeted murder; she sees it as a legal act despite the protests of adherents to international law, and in general she cultivates rather unrealistic expectations that even the judges in the International Court in The Hague will embrace the ethos and the norms of the notorious Unit 101.* She openly celebrates the deferral of the danger that IDF officers could be put on trial in the Hague and in other places for war crimes, and shares her sense of relief with us in an interview with Yuval Yoaz from “Haaretz”: “Now there is no fear that IDF officers will be judged for war crimes, because [the Court] does not have authority to judge a citizen from a state that did not sign the Convention” (“Nothing to be ashamed of: it’s “targeted killing’ and it’s legal”) (8/3) (Hebrew).
This is the twisted morality of the neocons, who have gradually been conquering every position of responsibility in the army staff. If we don’t “ratify” conventions and agreements that were made to protect humanity from war crimes, then we will somehow come out clean. In today’s Israel the avoidance of any collaboration with humanitarian and liberal bodies in the world is accepted as quite normative. If we don’t participate in the London Conference, they will not force us to do things that natural justice and the interest of peace oblige us to do in any case. If we neutralize every international intervention and take only the Americans into consideration in our open and hidden deliberations, then we will not have to put a stop to our crimes. In the request that we be humane and stop our abuse of the Palestinians and observe the principles of international law, the neocons see danger and maybe even signs of anti-Semitism. If ten years ago Dan Margalit from “Maariv” was the slightly absurd leader of a sanctimonious army, because most of his colleagues developed liberal self-images that concealed their “Zionist” ideology, today regiments of neocons like Sharvit-Baruch – who are turning the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians into an absolute exhausting discouraging hell – are at his disposal.
The journalist Yoaz – who kept a tone that was too neutral for my taste in the face of the atrocious phenomenon that sat across from him as she issued a series of blood-curdling statements – had done his homework well and asked Sharvit-Baruch excellent questions. The Prosecutor, who would be horrified if someone in Europe compared the leaders of the Palestinian resistance to commanders in a regular army, appropriated the comparison for herself with the abysmal hypocrisy that characterizes her, when it was convenient for her and her claims. “I don’t see a difference between killing a man who leads terrorist organizations and killing a senior officer in an enemy army,” she opined with affected practicality.
Yoav asked about an opinion by Prof. Antonio Casta, “one of the world’s most esteemed experts in international law,” who distinguished between killing in the course of combat and liquidation which is not done in the course of military action. Sharvit-Baruch did not lose her composure. She admitted that things like that are “part of our struggle with the world”, thereby converting herself into the “wicked son” in the Passover Haggadah who excludes himself from the community.** But there is no one to blunt the teeth of Sharvit-Baruch. Her role is to justify the reasons for the criminal behaviour of an entire State and an entire army that have declared that they do not belong to the world and that international norms do not apply to them. She spoke of Prof. Casta with that amiable arrogance that is so fitting for the monstrous generation of brutal soldiers that we have raised here since the occupation: “I talked to him, he’s a nice man, but I think that his opinion is not that well-founded and a bit detached from reality.”
Whoever has seen films and read books about the years that preceded the Second World War, 1933 to 1939 (and there were years in which I read much and varied material on that period), will particularly recall the tone in which the German propaganda minister Josef Goebbels spoke of the foreign journalists and high-minded clergymen who wanted to protest or to request truthful information about the regime’s systematic violations of human rights. Before you man the barricades I would like to remind you that I am not talking here about the Holocaust, but of the period that preceded it; and it does not occur to me to compare Sharvit-Baruch to any Nazi, to say nothing of a creature like Goebbels. But that contempt and arrogance towards the high-minded typified all haters of democracy and justifiers of oppression. The killing of 14 civilians during the “legal” murder of Salah Shehadeh last year is dismissed by the Prosecutor as a “slip-up” and a “mistake”. And she still considers herself an expert at explaining Israel’s actions to the world. Her very existence in the Judge Advocate-General’s Office and her disgraceful declarations can serve all the propagandists who condemn Israel – usually rightly so, but sometimes with excessive harshness.
I will leave the reader with an instructive lesson in hypocrisy from the Establishment and its emissary Penina Sharvit-Baruch. She admits that the demolition of houses harms innocent people. She understands the harm that this does to the image of Israel in the world, and is even willing to hint that the criticism “from the international law perspective” is not without foundation. It also constitutes, in her opinion, collective punishment against members of the family who “are not connected to the matter.” Nevertheless she insists that “we never considered this measure to be illegal.” The brutal soldiers, as is their wont, insist on legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry and of the world. If an IDF spokesman wanted to exhibit Sharvit-Baruch as an example of equality in the army, he would only show that women too will eagerly volunteer to perpetuate the institutionalized injustice of the anti-egalitarian outlook of human beings. Those who want to can also represent Daniella Weiss,*** to say nothing of Miriam Lapid,**** as feminist fighters for human rights. Paper will put up with anything.