How did revenge become a military objective?

When Israeli military commanders call bereaved families from the field to confirm they’ve gunned down their child’s accused killer, security considerations are not at play — that’s just an army exacting revenge.

Israeli soldiers near the house of Baraa Ibrahim Sale after it was demolished by the Israeli army in the West Bank village of Deir Abu Mashal, near Ramallah, August 10, 2017. Baraa Ibrahim Sale carried out a terror attack with two other Palestinians, killing Border Police officer Hadas Malkam. (Flash90)

Israeli soldiers near the house of Baraa Ibrahim Sale after it was demolished by the Israeli army in the West Bank village of Deir Abu Mashal, near Ramallah, August 10, 2017. Baraa Ibrahim Sale carried out a terror attack with two other Palestinians, killing Border Police officer Hadas Malkam. (Flash90)

There is something almost spellbinding about the speed with which the Israeli government is tearing off the masks that once afforded its policies a veneer of decency. From the Jewish Nation-State Law to the cultural loyalty law to the law to legalize settlement outposts, from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s anti-Semitic friends to the blatant racism of his son who publicly yearns for a country cleansed of Palestinians — official Israel is not even pretending anymore. Everything is out in the open now.

[tmwinpost]

This trend is also being reflected in the operations and policies of the Israeli army. Without any way of providing Israeli citizens with security and quiet in a reality of endless military occupation, it seems that the army’s main way of dealing with the Palestinians is sowing fear and collective punishment. This is done through demolishing homes belonging to family members of those who carry out violent attacks, a move that has been repeatedly deemed as ineffective by high-ranking officials in the army itself; through frequent raids of Palestinian cities supposedly under the full control of the Palestinian Authority, carrying out mass arrests that severely harm the PA’s image as an autonomous government; and by opening fire on unarmed protesters in Gaza.

Now the army has added another operational objective: exacting revenge on behalf of bereaved Israeli families. When Israeli security forces killed Ashraf Na’alowa, the Palestinian accused of murdering Kim Levengrond-Yehezkel and Ziv Hajbi at the Barkan Industrial Zone earlier this year, one of the first people to be notified was Rafi Levengrond, Kim’s father, who was briefed by the IDF Central command within five minutes of Na’alowa’s death. “It was important for me to inform you […] before it was published in the media,” Levengrond was told.

The family of Sgt. Ronen Lubarski, who was killed earlier this year during a raid on Al-Amari refugee camp, were also briefed as the family home of Islam Abu Hamid, the accused killer, was demolished over the weekend. “This morning, the commander called me from the field while the house was being destroyed,” Ronen’s father, Vladimir Lubarski, told Ynet. “It was important for him to speak to me first.”

Crowdfund banner 600px

Why was it so important for an IDF commander to call and update the father of the soldier — who was killed during a military operation — about the demolition of the home belonging to the family of the Palestinian allegedly responsible for his death? Was the killing of Sgt. Lubarski a criminal offense? Was the demolition of the Abu Hamid’s home a personal gesture to the Lubarski family in order to allay their pain?

It appears that Rafi Levongrond understood full well what underlies the operation that killed his daughter’s accused murderer. “I was waiting for this, but this is punishment after the deed,” he said after receiving the army’s update. “The issue is what to do to prevent this from happening. This is personal revenge but it won’t solve the problem. Of course, for our families, this is good news and we are very happy about it.”

By Monday morning, Levongrond’s tone shifted, after Israeli security forces only partially demolished Na’alowa’s family’s home in the West Bank village of Shweikeh. “I do not accept haphazard work,” he said. “They did not wound my daughter. They slaughtered and executed her… I demand they demolish the entire house.”

Although bereaved families have near-mythical status in Israel, their relationship with the state is far from simple. These relationships are often characterized by a demonstrative reverence that exacts severe criticism of those perceived as deviating from it, such as the storm that came down on lawmakers Miki Zohar and David Bitton, both from the ruling Likud party, who publicly confronted two bereaved families who lost their sons in the 2014 Gaza war. The same reverence that allows the Goldin family — whose son’s body is being held by Hamas along with that of fellow soldier Oron Shaul — to continue demanding that Israel abuse 2 million people in Gaza until their son’s body is returned.

SUBSCRIBE TO +972 MAGAZINE’S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

SUBMIT

But these bereaved families will only be revered so long as their demands fall in line with the government’s aggressive and belligerent agenda, and as long as they provide the army with the pretext and justification for revenge operations against Palestinians. The moment they stray from the militant line, they are stripped of their title as “bereaved families,” and turn into traitorous leftists. This, after all, is how the government treats the bereaved families of the Parents Circle Families Forum, which year after year has had to petition the High Court of Justice just to hold a joint Israeli-Palestinian Remembrance Day ceremony. Former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman called the ceremony a “desecration” that “harms the bereaved families who are so dear to us.”

The bereaved families are dear to us as long as what they want is more blood, more killing, more revenge. Only then will the government be attentive to all their demands. Only then will the army take revenge with live updates from the battlefield. Only then will they earn their respect.

Orly Noy is an editor at Local Call, where a version of this article first appeared in Hebrew. Read it here.

The post How did revenge become a military objective? appeared first on +972 Magazine.

“No One Listened to Us!” The Ixiles of Guatemala

By Jan Lundius
Stockholm/Rome, Dec 17 2018 (IPS)

According to the Mexican Interior Ministry more than 7,000 Central American migrants have during the last month arrived at the US-Mexico border. Despite warnings by officials that they will face arrests, prosecution and deportation if they enter US territory, migrants state they intend to do so anyway, since they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence. This is not new, in 1995 I visited Ixil and Ixcan, two Guatemalan areas mainly inhabited by Ixiles. My task was to analyse the impact of a regional development programme aimed at supporting post-conflict indigenous communities. United Nations has estimated that between 1960 and 1996 more than 245,000 people (mostly civilians) had been killed, or “disappeared” during Guatemalan internal conflicts, the vast majority of the killings were attributed to the army, or paramilitary groups.

A rainy day I visited a camp for returnees. After living in Mexico, Ixiles were awaiting land distribution. Behind wire and monitored by soldiers, they huddled among their meagre belongings, sheltered by plastic sheets stretched across wooden poles. They expressed their hopes for the future. They wanted to be listened to, allowed to build up their villages, gain respect and become accepted as coequal citizens in their own country. While asked what they wanted most of all, several returnees answered: “We need a priest and a church.” I wondered if they were so religious. “No, no,” they answered. “We need to rebuild our lives, finding our place in the world, be with our ancestors. The priest will make us believe in ourselves and trust in God. That will give us strength. We need a church so we can build our village around it. We all need a centre and every village needs one as well.”

Ixil tradition emphasizes the importance of land and ancestry. A few days before my visit to the camp I had interviewed an aj’kin, a Maya priest. Aj means “master of” and kin “day”. Aj´kines perform rituals and keep track of the time – the past, the present and the future. Like many old Ixiles the aj´kin did not speak any Spanish and the Ixil engineer who accompanied me translated his words. The engineer suggested that I would ask the aj´kin to “sing his family”. The old man then delivered a long, monotonous chant, listing his ancestors all the way back to pre-colonial days. When I asked him what the singing was about the aj´kin explained: “The world belongs to those who were here before us. We only take care of it, until we become one of them. All the ancestors want from us is that we don´t abandon them, making them know that we remember them. Memory and speech is the thread that keeps the Universe together.”

In the camp, Ixiles told me they had been ignored for hundreds of years and that this was the main reason for the violent conflict. Uniformed men had arrived in their villages and first, people had assumed they were government soldiers, becoming enthused when the strangers declared that it was time for Ixiles to have their voices heard, their wishes fulfilled. However, the “liberators” could not keep their promises. They did not represent the Government, they were guerilleros, proclaiming they had “freed” the peasants, when all they had done was to “speak a lot” and create “revolutionary committees”, only to retreat as soon as the Government troops arrived. These were much stronger and more ruthless than the guerilleros and stated that Ixiles had become “communists”. They murdered and tortured them, burned their fields. What could they do? They asked their Catholic priests for help, but the Government accused the Church of manipulating them through its ”liberation theology”; by preaching that Jesus had been on the side of the poor. The soldiers even killed priests. One woman told me that she and her neighbours one morning had found the parish priest’s severed head laying on the church steps. Some peasants joined the guerrilla, others organized militias to keep it at a safe distance:

  • “Some of the

guerilleros were our own sons and daughters, but what could we do? As soon as guerrilleros appeared and preached their socialism, the army arrived, killing us. The guerrilleros were not strong enough to fight the soldiers. We were left to be slaughtered. The only solution we could find was to arm ourselves and with weapons in hand ask the guerrilleros to stay away from our villages. However, all over the world they declared that we were supporting a corrupt and oppressive regime. We found ourselves between two fires, solutions were almost non-existent. No one listened to us”

A Catholic priest living in the camp explained: “They tend to be very religious, but their faith is mostly about human dignity. Ixiles want to be masters of their lives. They need to be listened to. Every day I sit for hours listening to confessions. They talk and talk. It makes them content when someone is listening to them. This is one of the problems we Catholics face. Ixiles are abandoning our faith for the one of the evangelicals.”

For centuries the Church had told Ixiles what to do, but finally both Catholics and peasants had been persecuted. In 1982, under the presidency of Ríos Montt, violence reached its peak. A scorch earth campaign lasting for five months resulted in the deaths of approximately 10,000 indigenous Guatemalans, while 100,000 rural villagers were forced to flee their homes, most of them over the border, into Mexico. Ríos Montt was a “born-again Christian” and in the aftermath of the violence evangelical sectarians appeared in the Ixil areas. Many of the remaining Ixiles became evangelicals, stating this was their only way to avoid persecution and come in contact with the “High Command” of the unconstrained army forces.

The loudspeakers of evangelical churches amplified their voices, allowing Ixiles to confess their sins and praise the Lord. However, were their voices finally heard? Their well-being improved? Do they have a say in the governing of their country? Many Ixiles are once again leaving their homes, hoping to reach the US. Research indicates a difference between migration patterns of El Salvador and Honduras and Guatemala. In the former two countries migration decision is more often the result of immediate threats to safety, while in Guatemala it stems from chronic stressors; a mix of general violence, poverty, and rights violations, especially among indigenous people.

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

The post “No One Listened to Us!” The Ixiles of Guatemala appeared first on Inter Press Service.