Amos Horev, the retired IDF general, former Technion president, and chief booster of the Israeli defense industry, has a rather sordid past that many might find akin to being a terrorist, Israel-style.
He is one of three panel members of the Gaza flotilla investigation and this incident, described by the inimitable Tom Segev in a 2002 Haaretz article, should shed light on the type of justice he might mete out in this inquiry:
`We castrated you, Mohammed!’
In the mid-1940s, a popular song [by Haim Hefer] among the members of the Palmach was entitled “We castrated you, we castrated you, Mohammed!” [Serasnucha ya Muhammad–the Hebrew lyrics censor the word for “castration” and substitute the meaningless Saragosa in order to permit Israeli youth groups to sing and dance to the song without having to explain the true meaning to such tender ears] That song is remembered even today. During the 60 years that have passed since that time, various theories have surfaced about the song’s origin. However, it was commonly assumed that members of the Palmach had tracked down and then castrated an Arab who had raped a Jewish woman. This was not an isolated case. In his biography of Yitzhak Sadeh, Zvika Dror writes that the commander of the Palmach even sent some of his men to a special course that was given at the Mendele clinic of the Kupat Holim Clalit health maintenance organization. “We would go there at 8:30 P.M. when the clinic was empty,” Dror quotes his source. “A physician and a nurse taught us anatomy and afterward we practiced a castration procedure.”
Now it is official: A book by Gamliel Cohen, “Undercover: The Untold Story of the Palmach’s Undercover Arab Unit,” published by the Ministry of Defense and the Galili Center for Defense Studies, reveals, with amazing precision, who the mythological “Mohammed” was, whom he raped, who authorized the rapist’s castration, who performed the castration and how precisely the “surgical operation” was carried out. Cohen eventually joined the Mossad. He describes how the Palmach’s undercover agents performed their liquidations; the same procedure is being used today in the territories.
The rapist…is identified in Cohen’s book as Araf Ahmed Shatawi, a broad-shouldered, muscular man who lived in the village of Bissan, where the town of Beit She’an is presently located. Shatawi was suspected of having attempted to rape a young woman from Kibbutz Messilot. According to Cohen, the suspicions were based on intelligence data. Shatawi was alleged to have spotted the woman as she descended from a bus and to have dragged her into the bushes. She struggled and managed to thwart the rape attempt. Since the atmosphere in the kibbutz was already highly charged and since this was not the first attempted rape, the supreme command of the Haganah decided that it would provide an effective response to the incident. At first it was proposed that Shatawi be assassinated; however, because of the fear that an assassination might set off a chain of blood vendettas, it was decided, as Cohen puts it, “to deal with him in accordance with the biblical principle that calls for the chopping off of a thief’s hand and which, in this case, would call for attacking the organ he used to perform the crime, namely, for castrating him.”
The plan was submitted to Shaul Avigur for approval. He was somewhat hesitant, in view of the cruel nature of the proposed action; however, Yehoshua Palmon, who later became the prime minister’s adviser on Arab affairs, persuaded him, and Avigur gave the plan the green light. According to Cohen, who quotes documents preserved in the IDF archives, the two individuals who carried out the castration procedure were Yohai Bin-Nun, who later became a major general and the commander-in-chief of the Israel Navy, and Amos Horev, who also later became a major general, the chief scientist of the defense establishment and the president of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. There was a third man, named Yaakuba Cohen; however, according to the Ministry of Defense version of the incident, he did not actually participate in the castration but instead stood guard over the rapist’s family, while Bin-Nun and Horev dragged him from his home into an open field, where they castrated him. Before they set off for this mission, they were briefed by the chief physician of the communities of Tel Yosef and Ein Harod. Cohen does not name him. The book then goes on to provide a detailed surgical description of the castration, which sounds almost like a “do-it-yourself” manual. In the final analysis, according to the Ministry of Defense version, the “operation, it was pointed out, proved highly valuable because it had an immense impact on the entire Beit She’an Valley and horrified the Arab population.”
No doubt, Amos Horev feels like the Israeli bus driver who decorated his bus with a banner that read:
Flotilla 13 [the navy unit that attacked the Mavi Marmara], be ashamed. Why did you kill so few?
Yes, there are those who will say this incident happened nearly 70 years ago and times have changed and that people change. I’m not even going to argue with this proposition though I disagree with it. The fact is that Horev should not have been appointed because his past taints his participation in the present inquiry. Surely, not even a reasonable supporter of the Gaza attack can argue that Horev has the type of past that would instill confidence that he can judge the facts dispassionately.
As an aside, if Israel embraces the type of Biblical justice meted out by the Palmach to the alleged Palestinian rapist, then should we expect, in the unlikely event the Israeli commission finds Flotilla 13 guilty of criminal acts against the Mavi Marmara passengers, that Horev will advocate cutting off the trigger fingers of the shooters? Or perhaps Turkey should take that mission on itself in the event the commission absolves the team of any culpability?
And the next time any supporter of Israel’s draconian policies rants about Arab terror, let them consider for a moment the rather sordid past of some of Israel’s current elite. If those who engaged in acts of terror like Horev can play major roles in their nation’s subsequent history, there is no reason why those Israel currently labels dangerous, murderous terrorists cannot do the same in Palestine.