General Benjamin (Benny) Gantz, the 20th Chief of General Staff of the Israeli army, was charged in March 2010 with illegally expanding his house onto public property. Upon his appointment as army Chief of Staff, Ynet wrote: “The attorney general’s office said there were flaws in Gantz’s conduct which were not serious enough to compromise his eligibility for the position of chief of staff.” The Turkel Committee – which investigated the allegations -did not find any fault which could compromise Gantz’ appointment and noted it appreciated Gantz’s “candor and integrity”.
This was one of the rare incidents in which Israel was consistent in its actions. How could an Israeli army general’s appointment be revoked for land grab when his job is to grab land? In fact, the whole country was built on grabbing other people’s land.
Like many Israeli generals before him, Gantz recently joined politics and founded the Israel Resilience (Hosen L’Yisrael) party to compete in the upcoming elections on 9 April. On Sunday, Facebook blocked a video by Gantz’ election campaign. His video claims that all Palestinians killed by the Israeli army in its assault on Gaza in 2014 were “terrorists” belonging to Hamas, which rules the besieged enclave. “Only the strong survive,” his video reads. How this is different from Nazi propaganda is an enigma yet to be resolved.
In his second video he brags: “Parts of Gaza were sent back to the Stone Age.” Any sensible person would think that if Gaza really has an army, and if it was really able to retaliate against Israel, would “parts of Gaza [be] sent back to the Stone Age”? Then the video counts 1364 people killed in Gaza, who are all supposed to be terrorists, contradicting even the official Israeli story. Then the video writes: “Three and a half years of quiet,” which seems to have skipped many pages of history on recent escalations in the Strip.
We Palestinians know from experience that with every Israeli general election, a massacre of some sort is bound to happen, especially if those in power are so close to their contenders in opinion polls. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would find any pretext to flex his muscles by bashing Palestinians, other Arabs or any easy target.
Competition between army veterans and other politicians who did not previously hold top army positions leads them to prove themselves by competing in spilling Palestinian blood. The latter are sometimes more aggressive and assertive than veterans because they are keen to prove themselves to their voters in the field of security. They want to fill that “shameful” gap in their CVs. They want to prove that they are as ruthless as military people with an added value; they have brains. They have the perfect combination of muscles and intellect, which makes them much more eligible to lead the country than their military competitors, who could act like a bull in a china shop.
Gantz’ third video shows a 2012 airstrike against Ahmed Ja’bari, one of Hamas’ top military leaders. All these videos with their repulsive messages; “Only the strong survive”; “parts of Gaza were sent back to the Stone Age”; and “killing the enemy” are supposed to represent the credentials that Gantz offers to his voters in a bid to put “Israel before everything,” as his party’s slogan goes.
In a fourth video, Gantz added the right portion of hope to three parts intimidation and mixed them to create the perfect formula that would cure his voters of the desire for security and peace. Israel, according to him, needs to seriously pursue peace with the Palestinians. Yet, how? It is not clear, but from the first three videos one has to be a complete idiot not to have a clue.
Yet how is Gantz different from Netanyahu and, for that matter, from any other Israeli politician? All of them use the same formula of intimidation and hope and, in many cases, use exactly the same words. It is almost a photocopy of Netanyahu’s rhetoric.
Israel does not miss any chance to amaze spectators with scenes of political irony. Whatever brutality and destruction Gantz boasts about was disputed by many, including Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked because, according to them, “he hesitated, dug in his heels, and did not succeed in defeating Hamas”. Israel’s Social Equality Minister, Gila Gamliel, said the only one who deserves credit is Netanyahu because all these “operations” took place during his tenure.
Netanyahu holds the record for the longest single term of any Israeli prime minister. Polls show that his party, the Likud, is in an excellent position to win again in April. Despite undergoing corruption investigations, he stands a very good chance in winning the next elections and retaining his post. His contenders are many, but they have to earn voters’ trust. Therefore, it seems that he does not need to prove himself this time by way of blood.
Israel keeps reiterating that it offered Palestinians peace more than once but they declined. But what kind of peace do Gantz and other Israelis care about, and in what capacity do they offer this peace?
Is it imposing the will of foreign colonialists on locals, who are supposed to concede and be grateful for whatever leftovers are thrown on their empty plates? Palestinians are free people and they value freedom above all. They will never bow down to Netanyahu or Gantz, even if it means losing everything, because for them losing freedom and dignity is the real loss. This is something those who are used to servility do not comprehend.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.