On the dichotomy of the
Occupation and its executors.
I speak only about those who oppose
the policy. About the fact that over the years I have been watching, in
utter amazement, people and especially women who talk about their son
who is just off to his regular or reserves army service, as if it were
self evident and within the natural order of things, and welcomed.
At times they say it while protesting against the very policy that he
carries out, and they do not seem to feel any kind of contradiction,
quite the contrary.
How is this possible?
And I am not referring to those who suffer from the fact that he is in
There are those, as well -
who have tried everything, or nearly everything, to dissuade him, to
show him another way, and given up, because it's their son and he must
be retained no matter what he does. Or because their spouse pressures him
to go, or because they are weak. And so as not to lose him. And because
they get confused. And reject the thought, time and again, until it is
altogether too late.
I speak only of those who wanted him to go, who think it is right to go
to the army no matter what this army does, and to all its wars, be they
whatever they are.
Including the present one, the recent one, the one that was no war but a
Is it because of the
screening of language.
For they tell the deeds of their son in different words. Transparent
They say he went off to do his duty, without concretizing this
act of duty. Or that we must have an army, without saying outright
what it is that the army actually does. Without saying, my son took a
rifle or a plane or a tank, and shot people under occupation and siege
and institutionalized robbery, and harassed then and brutalized them and
restricted them and slaughtered them.
Is it because he is her own son, and she will never utter his explicit
even when he does wrong.
Loved and blessed and just and smart and handsome and moral because he
is the son.
And where is the proper line drawn between the natural and appropriate
tendency not to see sons and daughters in their full responsibility and
identity even when it is criminal; even when they are egoistic,
opportunistic or exploitative, when they steal and murder, for it is
their son, their daughter. Who did not choose to be born. And it is her
duty to accept them regardless, and a-priori, for these are her children
– between this and the fact that because these sons and daughters commit
these criminal deeds, she recruits a strange dichotomy between the
policy and its soldier agents, as if these were separate entities.
And then the word occupation replaces the term occupiers
or agents or executors.
And the word duty replaces the term dispossession and
oppression and murder. The word we replaces the word
my son or my daughter, and the word contribution
replaces the word obedience, the word good or right
replaces the word evil or wrong.
And thus within this dichotomy and transformed language, these sons and
daughters can go on being sent to kill and persecute and slaughter, and
they are sent off with a blessing.
How can one stand there in protest of a policy carried out by one's son,
not having protested his actually going off to carry out this very
policy. The way that mother says it - I protest the bombing and the
murder, I complain of the policy and the politicians. As for her son,
she says he is doing his duty. Or did. As well he should.
How is this possible?
Perhaps because it's convenient that way.
Perhaps because they are not really willing to stray from the flock, to
shake such automatic axioms such as army service is good, it's
the ultimate act of citizenship and that a soldier, especially a
combatant, is a model of valor and giving and self-sacrifice for the
sake of the collective.
And because they and their spouses have been in the army and served that
very policy, etched and imprinted in them as a seal of belonging, and
And because calling this thing by its name means looking in a mirror too
deep and too difficult, and speaking thus of themselves, of what they
themselves had done in their own turn of
mandatory military service – that like the dichotomy of occupation
and occupiers, is one of the most effective means, of preserving any
reality, horrific as it might be.
Perhaps this is also the reason for the development of that exemplary
value cynically termed in Hebrew, 'shooting and crying': the model of
the soldier (policy agent) who goes forth to do evil (in his own eyes)
and suffers from deliberations and guilt feelings – a model that has
become an image of value.
Thus, not the one who refrains from institutionalized oppression and
terror is the worthy individual, but rather the one who actually takes
part in the mechanism of evil, albeit tormented while doing so.
This is the 'weeping shooter'. In fact he is the norm, he tows the line
no matter what the line is, only because it is the line, and he
righteously wallows in his own torment as though he were the victim of
his own actions (that he is fated to carry out), and not the assailant
who invades the Palestinians' home and shoots them and denies them their
lives just because they are different from him or because this is what
he was ordered to do.
This is the normal person, moral in the banal sense of the word, who is
really and truly not always particularly racist, nor violent, and would
indeed be glad if the act of state were different than it is.
It is the person who yields to the messages of his own time without any
strong feelings one way or another, who simply obeys.
Indeed, one can hardly call the deed of the son a crime, and admit that
what he carries out is wrong, and in the service of wrongdoing, for it
is the son.
Etched in the deepest place of all.
I recall that once, years ago, I described a soldier as a brute. And the
mother of a soldier at the time, who read what I had written, got angry
and became indignant and said this was unspeakable.
My son is a soldier, she said, my son is no brute. Therefore, a soldier
is no brute.
Perhaps it was human of her to resent my words. But wrong.
And, indeed, how difficult and how complicated it is for a mother to be
able to bear the contradiction between knowing the names of her son's
deeds, and the fact that this is her son. How hard, although this is the
most loved, the most cherished son of all, who came out of her body and
will forever remain there close and deep, how hard it is to stand up and
say – clearly and lucidly, without screening, without sparing:
This is evil, what he does, even if he is my own son.
And not to say: this is my son, and therefore his deeds are not evil.
It is difficult to look in the mirror.
And certainly, as policy agents tend to do, one should also blame the
war-monger generals and the politicians and the fascists and, of course,
the extreme right and the not-so-extreme right and the colonists and the
explicit transferists – blame them for being directly responsible for
government policy and for Occupation and its horrors, and for the
slaughter in Gaza.
Indeed, they do not see humans, and do not want peace, and think that
one people is superior to another, and that the one people's right to
life and dignity and security is greater than the other's.
But it is not because of them that policy does not change and only
For they cannot be changed, only forced. They are a given, like stones
and the sun and the structure of the earth. Whether in their views or in
They are what they are and they will be no different.
But they alone could never impose this reality, unless those who oppose
it, do serve it as well, generation after generation. And that is
because the willingness to serve policy regardless – whether guarding a
colony or standing at a checkpoint, demolishing a house over children
inside or killing them and shooting them as they run, merely because
this is the policy – that the Occupation and dispossession and robbery
and institutionalized terrorism only persist and deepen.
The dark track is cast through language. By changing the wording.
Through the dichotomy.
Thus the mothers call participation in the abuse and persecution of the
Palestinian people, service. They name the massacre of the
Palestinian people duty. And they claim that even if Occupation
is wrong and that they oppose it, it is not the soldiers. These only do
Thus, with this strange ease, they can stand in protest rallies against
the policy and its deeds including the last one, the massacre in Gaza,
and at the same time, without any sense of conflict, bless their son on
his way to do the deed, the massacre.
You say there is no choice, that someone must, or else one day the
really bad guys will come and what then, who will be there to face them.
That this is what should be done.
And I ask you, mother of this soldier: if you, for example, would tell
one of the Palestinians who you have had the chance to demonstrate with
and for them, that at this very moment your son is shooting children who
might be his relatives, and that tomorrow he might shoot him, evict him
from his home, and impose upon him the use of side roads so that Jews
can travel without seeing him - with your blessing –
and that at the checkpoint that prevents him from moving in the space of
his life, it is your own daughter who now sits because this is what you
think should be done, and she abuses him by her obeying the rules she
has been sent forth to obey –
will he agree with you that only policy is criminal and not those who
carry it out, your son, your daughter.
Who only obey orders.
Will he understand your claim that it is a good thing that your son
carries out the army's action, in spite of the army's action? And that
it is not your son who is doing what he is doing, but rather those who
sent him, the government, the politicians? That it is not this
particular, peace-loving son of yours? And that it is not you who sent
him there, but the system?
That it is the Occupation.
And he, your son, does the deeds - that he is supposedly not doing –
with so much inner turmoil, tormented and weeping. Because he is good.
And obedient. Because he is moral. And suffering. And shooting. And
slaughtering and persecuting and crying and shooting. And shooting. And
crying. And shooting.
Will the victim understand and retain and accept this dichotomy of the
act of abuse and dispossession and murder and its soldier perpetrators?
The dichotomy of the fist and the fingers?
Aya Kaniuk. Translated by Tal Haran