In an articulate (and surprisingly civil) discussion by the pool side on the Israeli version of Big Brother, one of the contestants took issue with a claim made by another contestant that the Israeli Defence Forces are primarily engaged in defending Israel. What ensued was a 5 minute discussion about the Israel/Palestine conflict.
I’m not sure of the context of this exchange; I don’t watch the show. Though I do think it’s a revealing glimpse into Israeli society and I’ve thus roughly translated the discussion below. Needless to say, the Big Brother shows around the world are not a great forum for radical ideas and thought provoking discussions, but what makes this discussion in the Israeli Big Brother interesting is the fact that discussion of, say, the occupied territories, or even merely a pro-Palestinian perspective, is so minute in the Israeli mainstream media.
[Outside the house]
Woman A: I can tell you that when I see an officer in the army that salutes during the national anthem, that makes me cry.
Man A: It’s touching.
Woman A: I almost faint.
Man A: That’s exactly right, it’s touching.
Woman A: And when I see that that is my son, then even more so. The army really moves me, Independence Day moves me.
Man B: To remember the dead, yes, but to do so in order to justify future deaths, no. That’s the difference.
Woman A: Our country, its existence is the IDF, the country’s existence. It’s your existence.
Man B: The IDF has long ago stopped being the army that defends. It is an army that carries out military rule, mostly, and most of its resources are directed towards the curtailment of freedom, not towards defense.
Man A: In order to defend.
Man B: [sarcastically] To defend is to send 100 soldiers in order to defend 3 teenagers that can hardly grow a beard, on some hill that they stole from the Palestinians? That’s to defend?
Man A: That isn’t anyone’s land.
Man B: That’s the land of the Palestinians.
[Inside the house]
Woman B: The whole country has to hear a Jew talk about his own people like that. About his own people! And every time he stands here and does that, they applaud him. I don’t understand.
[Outside the house]
Man B: Terror is the use of force upon civilians in order to cause fear. According to this definition, much of….
Man A: But we’re doing this in order to defend the citizens of Israel, so it’s not terror.
Man B: What happened in Billin? Why did protesters die there? Why were protesters there murdered? In order to defend the theft, clear and simple. Here it’s so clear that even the courts of Israel declared it to be theft.
Man A: Ok. But still, the protesters used violence against the security forces and IDF soldiers.
Man B: It is the IDF that uses violence first. Bassem Abu-Rahma, about a year and a half or two years ago, stood on a hill, and there is evidence from 5 different angles of this incident, he stood there in a bright yellow shirt and was shouting from about 50 meters away from the soldiers: “There is someone here who is hurt, you’ve hurt an Israeli woman, what are you doing!?” And then he got hit with a tear gas canister straight in the chest and died.
Man A: Ok. So by mistake someone shot at him some kind of warning.
Man B: Not by mistake, a straight aim is not a mistake, it is murder.
Man C: Friends of mind who died in the army are not murderers!
Man A: Ok. That’s not relevant here.
Man C: They came to defend me and their parents, and I won’t stand here whilst you call them murderers.
Man B: They are not murderers. The person who shot a tear gas canister aiming straight at the chest of Bassem Abu-Rahma; I called him a murderer.
Man C: [to man A] I can’t believe you know people like this.
Man A: What’s the connection? We’re having a civilized discussion.
Man B: Israel is not interested in peace, it is interested in land. Full stop. And we all know that.
Man A: Because land equals security.
Man B: It does not equal security, it equals land. Ariel is a finger that is stuck like this and cuts the Palestinian state in two. Ariel was built with the purpose and thought that there could not be a Palestinian state. And people say, “We want there to be a Palestinian state, why don’t they create a state?” But we don’t understand that we’ve actually stuck a finger in the middle of their [the Palestinian] state.
[Inside the house]
Woman C: I can’t listen to this.
Man D: They’re calling the IDF soldiers terrorists, and in order to cover that up they say “No, we’re in the middle of a civilized discussion.”
Woman C: A discussion? This is a discussion? I can’t listen to such things.
Man D: So go and say something!
Woman C: I’m not built for these arguments, I cry immediately.
Man D: But there are principles, it’s not about forgetting to wash a cup, this is about people who have died so that we could live.
[Outside the house]
Woman A: Apart from rationalism there’s also psychology, and the left ignores this completely. That we don’t come from the same place. If I’m a mother that can send a child to commit suicide in a bus, we don’t have mothers like that.
Man B: You’re a mother who sends your child to stand at a checkpoint.
Woman A: Exactly, to defend them, and them [points to people around her].
Man B:Not to defend, you think it is to defend and I’m explaining to you how it is not to defend. And the mother who sends her child to commit suicide does so because she understands that [it’s not about defense].
Woman A: [sarcastically] In the name of Allah. Because Allah is great.
Man B: And you, in the name of Israel, the defense of Israel.
Woman A: Exactly, Israel is a tangible thing, who/what is Allah?
Man B: But you don’t understand that there’s no relation between a checkpoint and defense, nothing.
Man A: If you want, I can take you to a warehouse filled with belts of explosives and knives all of which came from what we confiscated at the checkpoints.
Man B: Most of the checkpoints are found between Arab villages, not between Palestine and Israel. You know that.
Man A: Yes, but that is from our perspective the best way.
Man B: So it’s not for defense.
Woman A: If many people would think like you we will be wiped out here.
Man B: No, the opposite. If many people will think like me, the State of Israel could survive. At the moment, the State of Israel is on the brink of a catastrophe, and you are all with your eyes closed.
Woman A: [to the others] Here sits one man that knows all this and in the country they don’t know. Aren’t there intellectuals who study and know, who have knowledge even more than you and more in depth, and these people haven’t thought about this?
Man B: They have different interests. It’s interesting to note that in academia, in the place that is outside the interests game of the government, a place in which they have time to investigate things and study them in depth, most of the people do think like me. And the clear reason is that the moment you are exposed to more information, the moment you take a perspective that is slightly more objective, you have no choice but to be on the left. If you won’t wake up the State of Israel will collapse.
Woman A: We’ll wake up and return to ’67?
Man B: No, wake up and understand that the only way to save this country is to save it from this conflict. And the only way to get the country out of this conflict is to stop wanting more and more land, more and more power, and to understand that the real power lies in stopping the fighting and not to continue it more and more. The only government that took steps in this direction was the Rabin government, and it ended in murder. So to say that we want it, we don’t want it.