Israel: An enemy that respects only the brave

Israel: An enemy that respects only the brave
3 min read
06 Nov, 2014
Israeli society holds courageous fighters in high esteem and shuns collaborators.
Many collaborators with Israel turn to drugs [AFP]

In the early 1970s, my father - a teenager at the time - witnessed a long and fierce gunbattle at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza between the colossal Israeli forces, backed by air power, and a single Palestinian fighter. After the gunfire and explosions ended he went to the roof and looked at the hospital buildings only ten metres from his home.

It was a strange sight, he said. Four Israeli soldiers were approaching the dead body of a Palestinian fighter on the roof of the nurses' quarters. The fighter was from the Bakr family, a well-known family in west Gaza. Standing in a straight line in front of the corpse, they all saluted.

The scene shocked my father. At first he thought they were denigrating the body of the fighter after he had tormented them for hours, killing and wounding dozens of their comrades. However, they were respecting his outstanding courage.

     I must honestly say we fought against brave men who would run up and put grenades on top of tanks.
- Lt Gen Benny Gantz, Israeli military chief of staff

I remembered this story when I read that Benny Gantz, Israel's army chief, had admitted that armed Palestinian groups fought honourably during the recent Israeli attacks on Gaza. 

"I must honestly say we fought against brave men who would run up and put grenades on top of tanks," Gantz told a military conference last week. "That is how brave men fight."

In contrast, the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict is full of stories that show Israel's contempt for anyone cooperating with it.

One example is the story of the South Lebanon Army [SLA] that was closely allied with Israel during the south Lebanon conflict between 1985 and 2000. Israel did not bother to tell the SLA when it decided to retreat from south Lebanon in May 2000. It left its collaborators to their own devices, with its troops wandering towards Israel.

When its soldiers arrived, they were treated disgracefully, forcing many to leave.

"Most SLA agents in Israeli left," said an Israeli military source. "Some went back to Lebanon despite knowing they would be sent to prison."

In a 2012 al-Jazeera report, former SLA officer Nimr Saqr spoke out. 

"Israel treated us like dogs," he said.

His comrade Fawaz Nijm said they betrayed their country for Israel - but it then betrayed them. "Going back to Lebanon and facing the death sentence and a dignified death is better than living in these circumstances," he said.

It is no different for Palestinian collaborators. Investigations carried out by armed Palestinian groups and the Palestinian security services show Israel paid collaborators tiny amounts for carrying out dangerous operations.

After an agent is exposed, promises of protection made by the Israeli intelligence services quickly disappear. Agents are left to their own fates, which is usually a death sentence, swiftly carried out. If they manage to escape to Israel they are humiliated and shamed, which can push them into a life of drug addiction. 

A 2006 report by Israeli journalist Dalia Shukhuri revealed how dozens of Palestinian collaborators who had escaped to Israel became drug addicts to escape from the harsh reality of their situation. The report concluded with a summary of a medical study by Israeli doctor Vitali Tevlev from the department of criminology at Bar-Ilan University:

"Israeli society thinks agents have violated social norms, and betrayed their own people. People wonder who they will betray next, and when? Their rejection by society causes severe psychological distress, leading to drug abuse and criminal behaviour."

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the original author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.