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YNet op-ed: “Mr. Occupation Saw the Light”

From the Hebrew edition of Ynet. Translation by Rann.

With his own hands and orders Brigadier General Ilan Paz deepened the suffering in the Occupied Territories. Surprisingly, the political realization and moral insight broke through moments after he returned his equipment. And he’s not the first…

“Nothing good can come out of the humiliation of a neighboring people…the Convergence Plan won’t be implement even in another twenty years…if we do not transfer the land to the element that has a common interest with us to get to a two-state solution in the ’67 border, the situation will spiral out of control…the time has arrived to examine the saying that Abu Mazen is a weak leader and therefore isn’t a partner. We had a major part in creating this image…in Hebron there are terrible instances of violece against Palestinians, but also against the security forces. An entire settlement has taken the law into its own hands. I believe that there is no alternative but to remove the settlers from there…tems of settlements sit on private land that was stolen from Palestians and that contiunes to be developed under the sponsorship of the government.”

Who stands behind this range of quotations? Uri Avnery? Shulamit Alony? Perhaps a field activist from Ta’ayush? No. These logical statements were quoted in Ha’aretz from the mouth of Brigadier General (ret.) Ilan Paz, the head of the District Coordinating Office (DCO) until just a few months ago, when he left the army. The army received his equipment and we receieved a well-justified and harsh series of statements against the Occupation and the disaster of settlements. Paz got released, saw the light and hurried to tell all of us that the Occuapation is bad.

We are talking about a syndrome, that could be called ‘Denied Moral Failure’. A senior officer strips off his uniform and exactly then, not a minute before, his mind awakens to the fact that he dedicated his last few years in the army to the entrechment of a policy of occupation and violence that takes its toll in useless human sacrifices and undermines existential Israeli interests. Before Paz, there was Brigadier-General Giyora Inbar, the former commander of the Lebanese liason unit. Even before the small of gun oil left his clothing, the newly-made civilian hurried to give retirement interviews in which he stated that the Israeli presence in Lebanon was useless, creates pointless human sacrifices, and that we must get out of there immeadiately. Here too, surprisingly, the political realization and moral insight broke through not a moment before he returned his equipment.

Or maybe it was all previous? Is it possible that Ilan Paz and Gyora Inbar understood the size of the mistake and the depth of destruction while they were still in uniform? Which is worse: an IDF Brigadier-General whose uniform takes away his abililty to be logical and judge morally and independently, or maybe a Brigadier-General who knows full-well good from evil, and is aware of the disaster that he creates with his own hands and his orders, and despite this continues in the same path, because ‘an order is an order’?

Ilan Paz, like Gyota Inbar before him, cannot hide behind the duty to obey orders. We are not talking about some minor office here, but rather about the commander of the DCO himself. A man whose signature decorates thousands of orders and regulations, that themselves have turned the occupation into the curse that he now condemns with such vigor: checkpoints, theft of land, building roads on Palestinian lands, the impostion of a Kafka-esque regime of personal and trade permits, and reunification of families, and separation of familes and anything that happens to pop up in the military mind. In other words, during his three years in the job, Ilan Paz was Mr. Occupation himself, second only to the head of the army. Now he tells us ‘Na, I was just kidding. I actually hate the occupation and want to return to the ’67 borders.” Ilan Paze participated personally in the 2002 capture of Marwan Baghouti. Now he rebukes the state of Israel as one that with its own hands contributed the situation of ‘there is no partner’.

And Ilan Paz is not apologetic. He doesn’t even dream of apologizing (Gyora Inbar also skipped over that embarrassing matter). From his point of view, thare is no contradiction between his activities as an army officer and his statements as a civilian. Privately, he brags about this cognitive separation wall: in battle you shoot, at home you talk. He did not refuse his commanders, he did not leave his job slamming the door behind him: a nine-month leave padded his retirement. Mabrook (congratulation, Arabic). This is what will be done to an officer that fulfills his duty, gets a bit disgusted, and shuts up.

It’s a pity that Brigadier-General Paz broke his silence upon his release. It’s a pity that he didn’t spare us the insights that burned in his bones. Now he feels brave, and we feel cheated. And it’s not all this will move the machine of occupation from its path, not even by a millimeter. This machine is built on thousands of such Ilan Paz’s, they are its cogs and screws; good, moral people who only do terrible things out of necessity. Indeed, few are in as strong a position as Paz, a position that could have enabled them to really rock the boat, with a brave act of refusal. But together they call continue to carry the burden; they all promise that the machine will never stop. Is it too much to ask that at least their futile remarks stop?