Israel glorifies its military and portrays those who are sent by the state to commit acts of violence as heroes.

Remembering a Terrorist

“We are persecuted and murdered by the majority of ‘civilized’ peoples, or by savage and cruel peoples like the Arabs. Their intention toward us is not only to humiliate but also to destroy us physically.” These comments were written in the personal diary of Yosef Hecht, the founding commander of the Zionist terrorist organization, the Hagannah.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper recently featured a story about Hecht, a man who had a foundational role in the establishment of the Hagganah, the main Zionist terrorist militia in pre-1948 Palestine. The Haganah legacy is still very much alive in Israel and those who served in it, like my own father, are remembered with great admiration. This month marks the Haganah centenary, an event that will further glorify the Zionist militia which was responsible for unspeakable crimes against the people of Palestine. April 2020 marked the 50 year anniversary of the death of the organization’s first commander, Yosef Hecht, who led the Haganah from 1922 to 1931.

Haganah Israel

Haganah militia members walk in front of an Arab hotel bombed by Haganah in Jerusalem, Palestine May 6, 1948. Pringle | AP

The story in Haaretz begins with a quote from a letter received by Hecht’s daughter, now 98 years old, which reads, “On the centennial of the founding of the Haganah, its members and those who follow in their path bow their heads in remembrance of him, and cherish the memory of his security activity in creating the Jewish defense force and of his contribution to the rebirth of the independent State of Israel.” The word “rebirth” is strange in this context, and suggests that there was at some point an earlier “State of Israel.”

Two years after taking up his post as the Haganah’s national commander, Hecht was behind the first political assassination committed by the Zionists. It was the killing in 1924 of a Jewish man who opposed Zionism to a point where he was seen a serious threat to the Zionist project, Dr. Yaakov Yisrael De Haan.

A great deal has been written about Dr. De Haan. He was a Dutch Jew who came to Palestine in the early twentieth century and joined the Ultra Orthodox community in their struggle to stop the Zionist takeover of Palestine. He was a journalist and a lawyer and was in the midst of a campaign to get the British government to rescind the Balfour Declaration. He was also instrumental in bringing the anti-Zionist Jewish community in Jerusalem to collaborate with the anti-Zionist Palestinian struggle. It is very likely that the combination of these two efforts cost him his life.

On July 1, 1924, on the eve of his departure to London to pursue the anti-Zionist agenda, he was shot in the street by Zionist terrorists. The late Rabbi Amram Blau, who lived in Jerusalem and was a staunch anti-Zionist said, “Anything the Ultra Orthodox Jews had accomplished at the time was thanks to him.” Rabbi Amram also said that killing De-Haan was like killing the Ultra Orthodox community. De Haan’s ability to push the anti-Zionist agenda forward was unprecedented and when they killed him they killed the struggle.

The Zionist community in Palestine, then and now saw no wrong in the Hagganah assassinating him.

Special operations officers

“The other day,” recalls 22-year-old Lieutenant Aya Sade, “a deputy battalion commander called me to discuss an operation.” He wanted to conduct an operation with his men mounted on vehicles and she suggested doing it on foot. “Roger, that,” he said and followed her advice. “When you prove yourself people respect you.”

Aya is 22 years old and she is one of six female officers that were featured in a story in the Hebrew newspaper, “Maariv.” The female officers were celebrated for being the “real” women Special Operations Officers, a role that is also portrayed in the Israeli Netflix series, Fauda.

“It’s a kind of feminine dedication,” Lieutenant Raziel says. She too is 22 years old. “You could be home on leave, and still thinking about how to capture a fugitive.” Sometimes it comes to you in the shower, she added. The “fugitives” she is discussing are Palestinians who are wanted by Israeli authorities.

“My favorite moment is when I hear the commander say ‘We have Johnny,’ which means we have the person we were looking for,” Says Lieutenant Berkman, who also added, this happens several times a week, sometimes even several times a day.

Israel children

Israeli school children sit on a tank as they listen to an Israeli soldier speak in Latrun near Jerusalem, May 11, 2016. Ariel Schalit | AP

Listening to these young women describe their work you might forget that Israel is engaged in a war against a nation that has never had an army. The young officers describe an intensity and dedication that sounds remarkable, even admirable. Raids and rescue missions, fleeing fugitives, and foiled terror plots. They also talk about the need to “do the job but maintain a high standard of morals. “If there is a need for the military to enter a house and conduct a search we remind the field officers to act with respect, not to throw and break things but to do it gently and politely.”

Anyone who is not familiar with the sheer violence of the Israeli army really might be fooled by these comments. If one is not aware of the total disregard for the lives and rights of Palestinians, one might be convinced that the IDF really is a “moral” army. Furthermore, reading this report one might believe that there is such a thing as Palestinian terrorism and Israeli self-defense.

A casualty

“He came from a Zionist household. He loved the people of Israel, the land of Israel,” said the father of 21-year-old Amit Ben-Ygal, as he was laid to rest. He was killed during a pre-dawn raid in the town of Yabad in the northern West Bank. It was widely reported that Israeli forces raided the town in an attempt to make arrests and as they were leaving, a rock was hurled at the soldiers from the roof of a third-story house and killed Amit Ben-Ygal.

In a video that was released shortly after he died, the soldier is shown with his comrades in the unit dancing and screaming “who is crazy? I am crazy!” The Israeli authorities are calling his death a murder and the Palestinian who killed him a terrorist. Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the Electronic Intifada tweeted, describing what had happened more accurately as, “An occupation soldier who died while violently attacking a Palestinian village.”

Changing the story

The violence perpetrated by Israel is always glorious, soldiers who are killed in the process are symbols of patriotism and sacrifice. The state of Israel, like the Zionist movement before the state was established, is selling a false narrative. They had changed the story claiming that Zionist and Israeli terrorists were, in fact, “self-defense forces,” and that the Palestinian victims of terrorism were violent aggressors. This is how the story was told when the Zionist terror squads were established in the early twentieth century, and this is how it is told today.

Feature photo | An Israeli soldier fires tear gas at unarmed Palestinians in the West Bank City of Bethlehem. Majdi Mohammed | AP

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

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