Head for a tooth

The Israeli military must be one of the best trained in the world, yet it seems that at no time in boot camp did its soldiers learn self-control. In fact, the opposite seems to be true, namely that Israeli soldiers have been taught that all their actions are legitimate and it is permissible for them to use their hands and guns as they please, even when it means harming civilians, children included. Countless examples of brutal behavior (many of which were confessed by soldiers when the burden of guilt became too heavy) have now been compounded by yesterday’s attack by Israeli commandos on an international flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza. The cargo was medicines, books and other such dangerous objects, gathered by an international community that is oblivious to diplomatic games and the impunity that Israel has come to expect. On top of the daily suffering of the people of the Gaza Strip, where a blockade has left hospitals with scant supplies and is slowly but surely leading an entire people to starvation (according to data from the United Nations, poverty levels in the region have increased by 300 percent in the past few years), we now have the murder of activists who risked their lives to break the blockade, to throw a lifeline to the isolated Palestinians of Gaza and to remind the world that when a people is left to die out, when it is besieged by land, sea and air, humanity loses its right to boast of liberty and civilization. The Israeli government, meanwhile, was quick to find a way to whitewash the incident by banning the publication of any information regarding the dead and injured, as though not talking about something means it never happened. In a statement following the incident, the Israeli military said that its soldiers were attacked and that several of the ships’ passengers were wielding knives and brass knuckles. It even said that they tried to grab a soldier’s gun. The soldiers, said the statement, opened fire in order to protect themselves. And this from a military that has been a pioneer in asymmetrical violence for decades, that has opened fire on hospitals, schools, refugee camps, aid agencies and UN peacekeepers. Its dogma is no longer «a tooth for a tooth,» but «a head for a tooth,» even as a preventive step, that is, even when its own tooth is fine.