We Are All Rotten Apples
by Nirit Ben-Ari
On August 4, Eden Natan-Zada, an Israeli soldier wearing a military uniform and carrying a gun given to him by the army, opened fire on passengers on an Egged bus in the Palestinian town Shfar’am in the Galilee, killing four passengers. Immediately afterwards, an angry mob attacked and killed him while he was already handcuffed by the police. Natan-Zada declared upon his army enlistment that he would refuse orders to evict Jews in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as part of Sharon’s disengagement plan. Shortly after his enlistment, he deserted and was locked up in military jail. When he was released, he moved to the Kfar-Tapuach settlement, populated with some of the most violent religious fundamentalist Jews in the West Bank.
Following this chain of events, a couple of interesting things happened in Israel. First, although popular Channel 2 did not stop the screening of the tele-novella “Love Around the Corner” for 45 minutes after the event—and when finally reporting the event on the evening news the reporter described the shooting as “what the residents here [in Shfar’am] call a terrorist attack”—Channel 2 had to straighten the line with the rest of the media in Israel, and call the event a terror attack and the attacker a terrorist, using the language that is usually saved for Palestinian attacks against Israelis. Of course, a Jewish terrorist and Palestinian victims do not naturally constitute a terror attack, but because the entire Israeli media started to use this language, Channel 2 followed.
Second, Shaul Mofaz, Israel’s defense minister, announced that Natan-Zada will not get a military funeral. In Israel, every soldier killed during military service receives a military funeral, honor shooting and flag-wrapped coffin included, even if the solider does not die on duty. After Mofaz’s refusal to give Natan-Zada a military funeral, the mayor of Rishon Letsion, the city where Natan-Zada was born and where he lived until a few months ago, announced that he will not allow Natan-Zada to be buried in the city. For more than 48 hours the body was in the morgue in the Abu-Kabir Forensic Institute with no one taking responsibility to bury him. The parents, whose world has been destroyed, threatened to take the body to Mofaz’s home. The father was quoted in the media for saying that he wanted Mofaz to “look him in the eye.” Eventually Natan-Zada was buried in Rishon Letzion, by Hevre Kadisha, the religious burial authority, in a civilian funeral.
Third, “Va’adat Hamaakav” [Arab Higher Monitoring Committee], the body that represents Palestinian citizens of Israel, demanded the police not investigate the killing of Natan-Zada after his attack, as reported in an editorial in Haaretz on August 9 that dared to challenge this outrageous demand.
Meanwhile in the media, commentators and politicians, including Member of Knesset Yosi Sarid, have been commenting that Natan-Zada was another “rotten apple”, comparing him to Baruch Goldstein (who murdered 29 Palestinian worshippers in the Tomb of the Patriachs in the West Bank in 1994), or Yigal Amir (who assassinated Prime Minister Rabin in 1995). Very few commentators, virtually no-one in the mainstream media, dared to say that even murderers of the worst kind deserve to be brought in front of a court of law. In the atmosphere created after the attack, it was not considered respectable to sympathize with the murderous solider’s family.
It seems as if suddenly Israeli society is truly outraged about Jews killing Arabs. But a closer look reveals a different conclusion. Israeli soldiers wearing military uniform and killing innocent Palestinians can be found any day every where in the occupied West Bank or Gaza Strip. They are never called terrorists, and their actions are never referred to as terror attacks. Why Natan-Zada?
Because Natan-Zada’s victims were not Palestinians of the West Bank or Gaza. The latter do not have the right to be called terror victims. This belief has been so internalized by Jewish Israelis, that it seems that even Palestinian citizens of Israel have started to believe it, as shown from their demand to not investigate the lynch.
But this is not the only reason why Natan-Zada became a terrorist in the Israeli collective consciousness. Natan-Zada was not a 38-year-old doctor or a 25-year-old law student. He was a 19-year-old from a poor family who grew up in a poor neighborhood, who was described as outsider by his high school friends. In his high school year book he is shown wearing uniform and saying, “I massacred people on GTA,” an American video game in which the player kills a lot of people.
Why did Natan-Zada move to Kfar-Tapuach? This can only be speculated upon. Maybe because the fundamentalist settlers of Kfar-Tapuach offered him a community and a place to belong. Maybe for another reason. But do not talk about these settlers any regular day. These are the same settlers that Israelis like to think don’t exist. We want to think that it is never our fault, that our army is humane, that only Palestinians are terrorists. Don’t tell us about fundamentalist settlers who on any regular day are protected by the military and the police while they injure and kill Palestinians, stealing their land and trees, scrawling “death to the Arabs” on their shops as they ransack Palestinian markets.
When an Israeli soldier in uniform kills innocent Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza Strip and is killed on duty, he gets a military funeral and the status of a war hero. According to the same logic, Natan-Zada should have gotten his military funeral too. Those who refused to give that to his family are hypocrites who want you to believe that he is a “rotten apple” while the rest of us will not commit such immoral acts. The reality is that we are all rotten apples.
When a nineteen-year-old Palestinian straps himself up with explosives and goes on a mission to kill himself and as many Israelis as possible in the center of an Israeli town, it is clear to me that he is a victim of the occupation just as his victims are. It is also clear to me that Natan-Zada and his four victims are victims of the same illness — the occupation, the militarization and fascisization of Israeli society. (Special to WW4 REPORT)
See our last post on the attack.