When you listen to Israelis who understand what their government is doing in the Occupied Territories or even to foreign policy experts who have no axe to grind except for peace and a peaceful settlement, you find general agreement on one notion: that the occupation of the territories, the continuation of settlement construction, establishment of outposts, demolition of homes, illegal appropriations of land and water rights, harassment at checkpoints, arrests, kidnappings, torture, detentions without charges, assassinations, artillery shellings, and brutal actions of the Israeli police and the IDF—I list the catalog because all of these things are going on all the time—the point of agreement is that these things are hurting Israel irreparably and working counter to their security.A recent editorial in Ha'aretz bears this out, and makes the point that antiwar critics in the United States have been making for many years now: that Abu Ghraib was a symptom of the moral corruption that has been driving the leadership of this country in both foreign and domestic policy.
The editorial, entitled “Something bad is happening to us”, details the corruption that was first revealed a few years ago by Breaking the Silence , a group of current and ex-IDF soldiers formed to work for peace and to tell Israeli citizens what brutality has been and is being carried out in their name. Their keynote is "Occupation Corrupts." This past weekend, on Israeli television, a show called Facts broke the silence once again and backed it up with phone camera pictures. Here's a description from the editorial:
This time, it was regular soldiers in the Kfir Brigade. They exposed their backsides and sexual organs to Palestinians, pressed an electric heater to the face of a young boy, beat young boys senseless, recorded everything on their mobile phones and sent it to their friends. One of their "mischievous acts" was to test how long a Palestinian who was being choked could survive without breathing. When he passed out, the experiment was stopped. The soldiers described activities to "break the routine" that consisted entirely of abuse. It was enough for a boy "to look at us the wrong way" for him to be beaten.
The editorial ends with the same point we in the antiwar and progressive movement have been making for years:
Perfectly ordinary people, as the American psychologist said of the Abu Ghraib abusers, are capable of behaving like monsters when they receive a message from the top that it is permissible to abuse, beat, choke, burn, make people miserable and generally do anything that man's evil genius is capable of inventing to others who are under their control. Something bad is happening to us, they are saying in the Kfir Brigade. That "something" is the occupation.
Criticism of one's country is not unpatriotic; it certainly is not treasonous. A Democratic enterprise—or any enterprise for that matter—cannot long survive when it betrays basic principles and refuses to correct its course despite all the signs that it is sailing in the wrong direction.