By: Uri Misgav
Friends from Kibbutz Or Haner sought to pay a shivah call to Iris Haim, whose son Yotam was one of three hostages shot dead by Israeli soldiers after escaping from Hamas captivity. Haim lived in the settlement of Masua before moving to the kibbutz in the past year; she sat shivah in Moshav Shoeva. To the kibbutzniks’ surprise, they were met at the door by an employee of the Mateh Yehuda Regional Council, who served as bouncer. Behind her, the house was packed with men in kippot and women in headscarves. Since October 7, Haim has become a strategic weapon for the messianic-settler right.
The camp that took the nation hostage is determined to push these messages: It is forbidden to criticize the government; it is forbidden to criticize the IDF’s saintly soldiers (in contrast to its commanders); it is forbidden to end the fighting; dead soldiers and hostages are a worthy, noble sacrifice on the way to redemption, the silver platter on which the State of Judea will arise. For this camp, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the Messiah’s donkey, a useful idiot. They keep warning him that the day he dares stop the fighting is the day that his government falls.
Netanyahu hasn’t truly undergone “radicalization,” at least not in a deep, ideological way, since his only creed is staying in power. In the past, he avoided military operations in deference to the convention that Israelis are sensitive to soldiers’ deaths. But the map changed. Polls prove that the base wants blood and fire and pillars of smoke. Worst of all, the daily body count is being accepted as divine decree of fate even beyond the voters who supported this nightmare government.
The hostages have also been sacrificed. The hero of the messianic camp is Brig. Gen. Barak Hiram, who admitted without blinking an eye that on October 7 he ordered a tank to fire on a house in Kibbutz Be’eri inside which terrorists held 14 hostages. All but two were killed in the shelling. A division commander who gave such an order should sit in jail. There is a direct line from Iris Haim’s frequent media interviews to Hiram’s approach. Hiram, by the way, gave a comfortable interview to Ilana Dayan after Black Saturday. With a gleam in his eye, he waxed poetic about a vision of occupying the Gaza Strip and said that, from his perspective, it’s not about the army, “but something way beyond that, the Jewish people.”
This is a metaphysical, fundamentalist attitude, war as redemption. Hiram, who lives in the settlement of Tekoa, does not fit the cliches of the settler with an Uzi and army-style parka. He was born in Haifa, graduated from the Reali School’s military boarding school and is clean-shaven. He is viewed as mainstream.
The New York Times published the incident, as part of a comprehensive investigation of the terrorist rampage in Be’eri. In the Israeli media, apart from Haaretz, there is no room for criticism of the army. Nor for consideration of and challenge to sinking into a guerilla war in the Gaza mud, without a diplomatic horizon and under an unfit leader.
Meanwhile, Israel is becoming coarser and stupider. President Isaac Herzog was photographed this week writing “We’re counting on you” on an artillery shell bound for the Gaza Strip. This is a terrible message, apart from the hasbara damage a picture like this causes to Israel’s already extremely shaky international standing. I served as an officer in the Artillery Corps. Artillery is a statistical weapon, in contrast to a precision-guided weapon. It does not distinguish between terrorists and women, children or other noncombatants.
But this is the spirit of the time and the place. Journalist Zvi Yehezkeli keeps repeating on Channel 13 News that 100,000 Gazans should have been killed in the opening blow of the war, and that every single one of the Gaza Strip’s 2 million residents is connected to Hamas. This is a call for genocide, and Yehezkeli is currently the most popular speaker in the Israeli media (lecture fee: 20,000 shekels, or $5,523).
A society that sanctifies indiscriminate death and killing loses its moral superiority and the justification for its existence. This is the second massive blow that Hamas is on the way to landing on us, and it is even more terrible than the first.