Many can agree that Palestinian militants who bear arms and engage in violence against Israeli targets are terrorists. Some can find some reason to justify targeted killings against such figures. And a few may even justify such despite Israeli Supreme Court rulings which specifically rule out killings by the IDF. Those who justify such actions do so under the rubric of the war on terror and say pretty much anything Israel does to “defend” itself is OK.
But what about Israel? What about actions of its own forces and agents against not only Palestinians, but Israelis themselves? Haggai Matar brings up a small incident from the narrative that Uri Blau published in Haaretz about his experience as a wanted journalist in exile. Blau notes that he received a call from a friend while he was on a 3-month backpacking trip with his girlfriend in Thailand. He warned Blau that his apartment had been broken into and ransacked. After the reporter called the Israel police, the policeman investigating told him: “They must’ve been looking for something.”
Or maybe they weren’t. Blau had already adhered to his part of a written agreement with the Shin Bet to destroy his computer. Perhaps they thought they might find something else. Who knows. But Haggai Matar, a long time conscientious objector and Israeli peace activist, points to another motive–sheer terror:
It was about 8 years ago. I was active for the Shimnistim Letter (a statement of refusal by conscientious draft objectors), and I was one of those tasked with coordinating the signatories’ name lists. One day, my parents’ home was broken into, and my computer was taken. Nothing else. Computers belonging to other family members, money, valuables were all spared. In the same month, break-ins took place in the homes of prominent activists in Courage to Refuse and Yesh Gvul, two other conscientious objection organisations. The houses were all turned upside down, and in all of them the only items missing were computers with CO name lists.
I remember being appalled – not really comprehending back then how Israeli “security forces” operated – and as the years went by, I learned to smile back at my naivete. But reading Blau’s account today got me wondering. Why, come to think of it, do they need to break into our homes? After all, there are legal routes to obtain search warrants and confiscate computers, in a perfectly orderly manner…So why burgle?
The answer is that breaking-in signifies the deeper truth about the nature of their work. Like the…Mossad that murders people in faraway countries without ever admitting it – the innermost essence of the Shin Bet is embedded into such break-ins. It…is a statement: “We are the law, and we are above the law, and under the radar of the law, as we please”; and also, “you know it’s us, and there’s nothing you can do about it”; and at the end of the day, “we are everywhere in your life, all the time, and don’t you forget it.” It’s breaking-in with intent to terrorise…
Uri Blau is in exile in Britain, his email and his phone are tapped, and he is threatened with interrogation and arrest if he dares to return to Israel. He is also awaited by his upturned flat, a silent testimony to the terror hovering over all of us.
This is not to mention the far worse treatment handed out to Palestinians in similar situations who run afoul of the IDF or intelligence services.
So the next time you talk about “terrorists” remember that there are terrorists among us, our fellow countrymen and women, whose job is to terrorize us and take away our rights, our property and our sense of personal security. This is yet another part of the Kamm-Blau case that will hardly be addressed within Israel.
Daniel Ellsberg’s prosecution was terminated because of precisely the same violations of his rights. In Israel, such protections are not afforded to defendants. Unlike the sanctions the court imposed on the FBI for its misdeeds, no Israeli court would dare step in and free Anat Kamm or Uri Blau (if he ever returns to Israel) on the basis of such a break-in. And that is why blogs like this must exist. To keep the forces of darkness in Israeli society in check. To look over their shoulder and tell Israelis and those in the Diaspora what it’s like to live in a national security state that sacrifices individual rights for an alleged claim of security.
H/t to Noam Shiezaf for graphic.