By Brenda Heard
“What do you imagine when you’re in a tank?” Israeli filmmaker Itamar Rose asks young Israeli kids. “I picture a dead Arab and that makes me happy,” responds one boy. (1:37; 1:54-1:57)
These words are quickly circulating amongst internet activists. Of course there is also a flurry of counter-finger-pointing, beginning with Rose’s own reference to a Palestinian society of “agitation and hate.” In this and other films, Rose seems to be saying that cyclical violence is a no-win situation.
As worrisome as the happy-to-kill mantra of the kids might be, equally disturbing are these political practicalities:
Q—Where do you want to do your army service? In the north? The occupied territories? Gaza? Judea and Samaria?
A—Lebanon. My first choice would be Lebanon. [. . . ]
Q—But we gave back Lebanon. We aren’t fighting in Lebanon.
A—That’s okay, we’ll be back.
Q—Do you hope that by the time you’re a soldier we’ll be at war with Lebanon again?
(2:14—2:35. The original is in Hebrew. The English translation is provided in the original film posted by Itamar Rose, as is the French translation, which confirms the same precise meaning: “Mais on a déjà rendu le Liban, on n’est plus en guerre là-bas.” “ C’est pas grave, on les remettra de nouveau.”)
The boy, who I would guess to be about 11 years old, states that his father had served in the Israeli Givati Brigade. These are specialist forces for the Lebanon Border, Hebron and Gaza. The boy states he wants to do the same as his father. A normal sentiment—to follow in a father’s footsteps. But he doesn’t just want to be a soldier. He doesn’t say he wants to defend his country or his people. He says he wants to be part of the Israeli military that returns to Lebanon. He wants to wage war against Lebanon.
He might have said that he would stand ready in Israel in its defence. He might have said that he hoped there would be peaceful relations. But he echoed the aggression he had absorbed from his society: “We’ll be back.”
Was he just playing up to the camera? Caught up in the atmosphere of the Armored Corps Memorial they were visiting? Of course it is possible, but even in such a case he felt that this belligerent stance, even if not heartfelt, was appropriate to enact.
And then there is the filmmaker’s statement: “But we gave back Lebanon.” Itamar Rose uses satire in his films, so there is a remote possibility that this phrase was a tongue in cheek baiting of the interviewee. But given the fact that Rose was recently hosted for a London event by the Israel Connect program of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland, that possibility looks remote indeed. The Zionist Federation just doesn’t promote voices opposed to Zionism. And the 22-year occupation of Lebanon was Zionist at the core.
To say “we gave back Lebanon” necessitates the presumption of custodial possession. You can’t “give back” something you don’t hold claim to. Therein lies the rub. Zionism, a political ideology, presumes this entitlement. Israeli officials have, of course, frequently denied designs of territorial conquest. But the historical facts argue otherwise and the pervasive sense of entitlement is revealed time and again.
“But we gave back Lebanon,” says the older generation.
“That’s okay, we’ll be back,” says the new generation.
No, say those of the world with an eye on justice and international law. No, Lebanon wasn’t yours to take. It wasn’t yours to give back. And should you try to return, you will learn this very simple fact.
By Brenda Heard