Saturday, October 4, 2008

Gideon Levy on the killer of the year

In the opinion piece below, Gideon Levy writes of Israeli television "Channel Two"'s choice of 'man of the year', "a dark figure with so much blood on his hands. … It is doubtful whether there is any other free country where the top journalists would consider choosing the head of such an organization as man of the year. Only in Israel."

Violence and indeed ruthlessness, though frequently legitimized with an act of concurrent soul-searching, are central recurring features of Hebrew culture in Israel. They draw on, and at the same time work to reinforce, the premise of an unavoidably violent struggle for national survival. No less, they hold up a sharply gendered division of the labor of organized violence, establishing particular measures and versions of masculinity to be admired and aspired to.

A major feature of this masculinity, in the best (and subsequently parodied) tradition of Hollywood westerns, is silence. But the images valorized and admired the most in Israeli culture are not simply silent but those 'strong, silent types' who are duty bound by vows of secrecy due to the privileged, insider's, top-secret knowledge they possess. While 007 may be a sometimes witty and amusing parody, Meir Dagan and his likes are taken quite seriously throughout much of Israeli society.

He should of course be taken seriously—his leadership has engendered lethal results which I believe to be counter-productive and destructive to his own society as well as others. The 'top secret' blanket, however, renders him and many others virtually unaccountable for their policies, decisions and actions. The mystification of such unaccountability, represented as heroism, leads substantial parts of the public in Israel to go on conceding these men their presumption to know what is good - and secure - for all of us.

Rela Mazali


w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m
Last update - 00:14 03/10/2008
Killer of the year
By Gideon Levy

White smoke emerged from the tribal campfire on Rosh Hashanah Eve, announcing Channel 2 News' choice for man of the year. Commentators from the most popular and influential media outlet in the country announced their decision after holding a shallow and absurd discussion. "[He is] a man who has done only good," political analyst Emmanuel Rosen said of the selection, speaking on behalf of judging panel. Who is this rare and illustrious person who did so much good? Mossad chief Meir Dagan. An excited Rosen added: "[He is] a man who would cut the throats of terrorists with his own hands, using a box-cutter - a man of action with a knife in his teeth."

By way of supporting their decision they presented a "rare journalistic achievement": a glimpse of a meeting between our hero Dagan and outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The images echoed Communist Romania or North Korea: Olmert hosting Meirkeh, as the Mossad head is called by U.S. President George Bush, in his office. Both said very little in front of the cameras. "You did well," the prime minister said to Rosen, about the recognition. Then two character witnesses were called in. Major Gen. (res.) Yossi Ben Hanan spoke about how Dagan once killed a terrorist with his own hands, though of course he did not specify how, and reminisced about how they had once traveled together in the Far East. National Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer added: "I recommend that you don't get too close to him - I suggest your story had best be favorable."

Later the panel made intimations about his doings in the past year: The killing of senior Hezbollah leader Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus, a few more mysterious and unnecessary killings and, of course, the bombing of the alleged nuclear site in Syria, operations that they said should make Meirke deserving of "at least 10 Israel Prizes."

Indeed, our man of the year is a declared killer. Whether by box-cutter or car bomb, his craft is killing. His killer instincts are our source of pride, the peak of our creativity. We should be thankful to Rosen and friends: They did not even try to sugar-coat anything. They did not pick a humanist, a scientist, an industrialist or an author; Attorney General Menachem Mazuz came in second and Olmert third, but Dagan is our killer of the year. He himself is not the problem. Rather, it's the disgusting worship of people of his kind. Never has the head of the Mossad been such a dark figure with so much blood on his hands. Never has anyone thought of picking the Mossad chief, of all people, as man of the year. It is doubtful whether there is any other free country where the top journalists would consider choosing the head of such an organization as man of the year. Only in Israel.

Only in Israel are Dagan's past activities still censored. He is responsible for much of the blood that was shed in Gaza in the 1970s and Lebanon in the '80s. A shocking expose prepared by two reputable journalists a few years ago about his doings in Lebanon was never published. That report would have only made the Channel 2 dream team panel worship Dagan evern more, and supported his image as a killer with a knife in his teeth.

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