October 02, 2010

The return of Israel's Mengele squad

I remember reading about this in a magazine called Return back in the 1990's and it was referring to the 80s but here's an article in Ha'aretz wondering how the perennial victims of the Israeli army can refer to themselves as nazis. The article starts quite well, marvelling at the fact that when it came to light, for example, that a unit of the Israeli army was describing itself as the "Mengele Squad", the instinct of state officials wasn't to concern themselves with their victims but to send the boys to Yad Vashem!
In 1989, a few years after Leibowitz spoke of Judeo-Nazis and about a year after the start of the first intifada, the country was shaken by a report by Avi Benayahu (the current IDF spokesman ) in the now-defunct left-wing newspaper Al Hamishmar. According to the article, a group of Israeli soldiers stationed in Ramallah had styled themselves the "Mengele squad." Again the IDF and the Nazis were intertwined, this time not by a philosopher and well-known provocateur but by the soldiers themselves.

In a turbulent Knesset debate on the issue, MKs expressed dismay at the chutzpah of a few "wild weeds" who, according to their commanding officer, had not displayed excessive brutality toward the local Arab inhabitants. All in all, it was just an armored infantry unit, which in wartime accompanied tanks into battle, but in periods of calm and during the intifada was helping fight the Palestinian uprising without undue enthusiasm (according to the company commander ).

The army reacted with fury. Because the identity of the one who leaked the story to the press was not discovered (and has not been discovered to this day ), the whole unit was subjected to an educational seminar and pedagogic punishment in the form of a tour and lecture at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.

Nothing was done about the rumors of beatings and lootings of Arabs and the everyday abuse of the local population; but telling the press about it was considered unconscionable. One soldier in the unit, who now works in marketing, says without sarcasm, "All that happened was that a few soldiers decided to call themselves the 'Mengele squad,' to set themselves apart from the others - a kind of branding."

Ok, so much for the Mengele squad. See this:
"The battalion knew we were a company of 'killers,'" the officer - the son of Holocaust survivors - related. "We were for an aggressive solution. We tried to shoot using all means, we injected gas into schools from which stones were thrown at us. In the battalion we were known as the 'Auschwitz company' or the 'Demjanjuks' because we made such extensive use of gas."
Now the back-peddling begins:
Two years later, Ari Shavit published impressions from a 12-day stint of reserve duty at the Ansar detention facility on the Gaza shore. The column's thesis was ahead of its time. Ansar, he noted, is "the best and most enlightened facility among the detention camps that were established since the eruption of the intifada. Ketziot and Fara are far worse; only Megiddo prison is said to compete with it in terms of humanism."

But Shavit went on to boldly reveal the explicit associations that struck him during his service in the humane camp that housed more than a thousand inmates: "The facility has 12 watchtowers. Some of the soldiers are shocked at the resemblance between these towers and other towers, which they learned about in their childhood. In fact, the shock is purely emotional and lacks any factual basis. After all, the watchtowers that appeared in Europe in the 1930s, for example, were mostly made of heavy European wood, whereas the towers of the Gaza shore facility are made of light Israeli metal, manufactured by a factory in Tiberias."

Wow! Now there's a significant difference between Israel and nazi-Germany. They make their watchtowers out of different stuff!

But still the zio-nazi comparisons come:
"When R. sees a column of prisoners approaching, led by the barrels of the M-16s of his buddies in the unit," Shavit wrote, "he says in a totally quiet, businesslike tone, 'Now the Aktion is starting.'
And there's more:
N., a forceful, unsentimental Likudnik, complains to anyone who is ready to listen about what makes this place look like a concentration camp."

Indeed, there were grounds for complaint. Among those brought to the camp were children of 15 or 16 who were bruised and battered, and the doctor at the clinic didn't just treat the reservists' eye infections: "On some occasions he was asked to repair what an enthusiastic interrogator had done to the limbs of a suspect."

Remember this is at the prison, sorry, "facility" where, "only Megiddo prison is said to compete with it in terms of humanism."

Ok, that's the shooting, or limb smashing, or gassing, what about the crying?
On the day the Muqata, Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah, was captured, Chayut was an officer in the Nahal paramilitary brigade. He and his soldiers were ordered to maintain quiet and order at the site. He saw a group of Palestinian children and smiled at them, but even though he was a simpatico fellow and handsome, too, the children broke into a run, apart from one girl, who froze in her tracks. Her terrified look was the basis for the disillusionment that led him to write the book.

"As for what that girl took from me," he writes, "that is something I understood long afterward. She took from me the belief that absolute evil exists in this world, and the belief that I was avenging it and fighting against it. For that girl, I embodied absolute evil. True, I was not as cruel as the evil I imbibed, was raised on and matured with. I did not have to reach the level of its sophistication and intensification in order to grasp my role in her life [...] Since then I have been left without my Holocaust, and since then everything in my life has assumed a new meaning: belongingness is blurred, pride is lacking, belief is faltering, contrition is heightening, forgiveness is being born."

Forgiveness? Of whom? For what?

Stay, it gets worse:
It's hard to be both victim and victimizer at the same time. The evacuation of a large number of civilians, more than 4,000, including women and children, before a bombing run by the IDF, with the aim of preventing casualties, was dubbed "Schindler's list."

"Of course you know that it's clearly not the same thing, because you are not a Nazi and you do not kill them," says a soldier who took part in Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. He adds, "You also don't do it from hatred or anything. You even do it for their benefit, so they won't be hurt by the bombing. But it's impossible not to compare, there's no way not to think about it."

And worse again:
According to Rosenthal, it is not the occupation that is responsible for Holocaust references in the army, but the experience of loss in the first phase of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which brought back to the Israelis the sense of Jewish helplessness. The desperate shouts of the trapped soldiers that were heard over the army's radio network suddenly sounded like the screams that might have been uttered in the gas chambers.
Can anyone really believe that the reason for holocaust terminology being used so casually in struggles of 1987 and 2000 are down to something that happened in 1973 recalling a time a when Jews really were victims?

Still, when we consider that the zionists in Europe are trying to have comparisons of Israel to the nazis made illegal, it's useful to point out that the comparisons, as unsound as they might be, are being made in Israel by Israelis themselves.


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