Indignation of an Israeli Writer: Ari Shavit

Cana: 102 Faceless Dead

We killed 170 people in Lebanon, most of whom were refugees, during the month of April, 1996. Many of them were women, old people and children. We killed 9 civilians, one a 2 year old girl and one, a centenarian, in Sahmour, on April 11th. We killed 11 civilians, including 7 children, in Nabatyeh, on April 18th. In the UN Camp in Cana, we killed 102 people. We made sure to inflict death from a distance. In a very secular manner, without the archaic idea of sin, without the antediluvian worry to consider man in the image of God, and without the primitive proscription, "You shall not kill!"

Our solid alibi is that we are responsible for nothing, that the responsibility falls on Hezbollah. A most doubtful alibi. For when we decided to launch a massive attack on the civilian region of South Lebanon (while Israel ran no vital risk), we decided, ipso facto, to spill the blood of X number of civilians. When we decided to drive half a million people out of their homes and to shell those who remained behind (while in Israel, we did not have one single victim), we decided, in fact, to execute several dozen of them. This (alibi) allowed us to make such cruel decisions without seeing ourselves as rotten.

We killed them because the increasingly wider gap between the sacrosanct character that we attribute to our own lives and the more limited character we give to theirs, allowed us to kill. We believe, in the most absolute manner, with the White House, the Senate, the Pentagon, and the New York Times on our side, that their lives do not have the same weight as ours. We are convinced that with Dimona (Israel's atomic site), Yad Vashem and the Shoah Museum in our hand, we have the right to compel 400,000 people to evacuate their homes in 8 hours. And we have the right, at the end of 8 hours, to consider their homes as military targets. And we reserve the right to rain 16,000 shells on their villages and their populations. And we reserve the right to kill without any guilt feelings.

But all this cannot alleviate the gravity of the massacre, Israeli style, and our responsibility for its execution. For it is perpetrated, in general, in places to which we give free range to immoderate violence.

The shelling of Cana was executed according to the rules, orders and objectives of operation, "Grapes of Wrath." There is something wrong in these rules, orders and objectives. Something that is no longer human. Something that touches on the criminal.

And all of us, without exception, were an integral part of this machine. The public supported the media, who supported the government, who supported the Chief of Staff, who supported the inquiry officer, who supported the officers, who supported the soldiers who fired the three shells that killed 102 in Cana.

Nothing can prevent Cana from becoming an integral part of our biography. Because, after Cana, we did not denounce the crime, we did not want to subject the affair to the eyes of the law, we merely wanted to deny the horror and go on with our current affairs. That is how Cana is part of ourselves -- like one of the features of our face.

As the massacre perpetrated by Baruch Goldstein (in the Cave of the Patriarchs on Muslims while praying) and the crime committed by Ygal Amir (like the reactions to them) were manifestations of rotten seeds in the heart of the national-religious culture, the massacre of Cana is no less extreme a grain of rottenness in the heart of secular Israeli culture: its cynicism, brutality, instrumentalism, egocentrism of the powerful; this tendency to blur the frontier between good and evil, between permitted and prohibited; this tendency not to require justice, not to care about truth.

The manner in which contemporary Israel has functioned during and after Cana shows that modern, rational Israeli life conceals a terrifying aspect.

Ari Shavit/Haaretz/New York Times Syndication. Ari Shavit is a writer and columnist of the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz. He lives in Jerusalem. (Translated from Hebrew in "Liberation" of May 21, 1996.)


-- * "If you want peace, work for justice." -- Pope Paul VI/Reinhold Niebuhr * "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing." -- Edmund Burke ************************************************** Wael M. Ahmed University of Kentucky Phone:(606)273-3122 E-mail: wmahme00@pop.uky.edu World Wide Web Page: http://sac.uky.edu/~wmahme00/ **************************************************