By Gideon Levy
July 06, 2009 -- Combat is the best, my brother, as the famous bumper sticker reads. It's a good thing we have Shayetet 13. Operating at the crack of dawn - or was it before nightfall? - the daring naval commandos fearlessly took control of a rusty, rickety, unarmed boat bobbing in the middle of the sea. That's exactly why we have a naval commando force - to take control of ships offering humanitarian aid. Behold, the guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. The military correspondents reported on the incident with an amazement that only they can muster. But even they could not provide a fig leaf for the operation: The Israel Defense Forces has once again used its power to overcome the weak; the navy has once again acted like pirates. The Arion was abducted in the framework of protecting Israel's security for all eternity, blah, blah, blah.
Soldiers, journalists and news consumers automatically refrain from asking questions. The navy captured another ship carrying symbolic aid, as if its passengers were Somali pirates. These were people of conscience from various countries carrying toys and medicine.
This was not the navy's first daring operation of this kind, nor will it be the last. When there are no hostile aid ships on the horizon, the navy takes control of wretched Gazan boats, using water hoses or firing at its passengers - poor fishermen who only want to make a living at sea. This is the main activity unfolding off Gaza's shores. A navy outfitted with the best arsenal in the world is hunting surfboards. One of the best-armed forces in the world is chasing children, examining old people's documents and entering bedrooms to make arrests.
We ought to pay close attention to what preoccupies our military. While defense officials hold discussions on buying the F-35 combat jet at $200 million per plane, the IDF is mostly busy with miserable, pointless police work that befits an occupation army. It is engaged in ludicrous and useless policing in a "war" against people equipped with some of the most primitive weapons in the world.
In the dead of night, soldiers in elite and not-so-elite units break into the homes of Palestinians, some of whom are guilty of no crime, and needlessly awaken and frighten women and children. Their comrades spend their service standing at checkpoints, occasionally shooting and killing needlessly. Other soldiers chase after children throwing stones or Molotov cocktails and shoot at them. "A huge terrorist attack" that was thwarted near the security fence in Gaza a month ago was to be carried out by "a force" that numbered eight Palestinians, some of them mounted on mules. The mule-rider's brigade - these are the forces against us.
We saw it, of course, during Operation Cast Lead, the war that provoked almost no opposition. As reported last week by the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, our drones bombed helpless Gaza residents, killing a few dozen, including children. Our jets and helicopters, among the most sophisticated in the world, are bombing residential neighborhoods. They may be preparing for an operation that fires the imagination in Iran, but meanwhile they are circling the Gaza sky as if it belonged to them.
If that were not enough, we now have the most advanced system of all: female soldiers who are lookouts trained to shoot live fire after completing "precedent-setting training." The army newspaper Bamahane reported it with great enthusiasm: "This is the first time female soldiers will shoot automatic gunfire from within a W.R., noted the C.O. of the T.B," whatever those initials mean. In simpler language, it means that 19-year-old girls are playing with joysticks in an air-conditioned room and "taking down" people.
This then is the great progress of the "people's army" to train women to kill, while their comrades, soldiers and Border Police, are routinely sent to shoot live fire at unarmed demonstrators at Bil'in and Na'alin. This, for the most part, is the IDF's balance sheet. This is what largely preoccupies the best, most moral army in the world. Pilots who have never fought in an air battle and soldiers with no army against them now spend most of their time maintaining the occupation in a kind of pathetic combat, and they are our protective shield. When the day of reckoning comes, we will remember this.
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