Pic: Yaki Assaig
Photo: AFP
Scene of Gaza beach explosion
Photo: AFP

I am ashamed

If you kill enough children, enough times, you become a child killer. Yair Lapid on Ghalia family tragedy

I am ashamed. Deeply, painfully humiliated, ashamed of us and what we have done, where we have ended up. I’ve been ashamed in my life but not like after what happened at the beach in Gaza, in front of the small bodies of the Ghalia family. I am ashamed because we have become child killers.


So what if they started it and yes it was an errant rocket shell and yes it’s impossible to live with the fact that they are always trying to kill us. It’s all true but if you kill enough children, enough times, that is what you become: a child killer.


It took me a long time to be ashamed. I believed for so long that if they are shooting at us, they leave us no choice. I am a Jewish patriot, always have been. Not everyone is equal in my eyes. The lives of Jewish children in Sderot are more important to me, their blood is redder and I feel their anguish more deeply.


So I was not ashamed; not when a missile from an air force helicopter gunship killed six year-old Munir Iman; not when we killed seven-year-old Hadil Gh’iban with an artillery shell and not when an IDF bullet killed Acabad Zaiyad who was also seven years old. I told myself that they started it, that they brought this upon themselves and there is no other way to conduct this war.


It was comfortable not to feel ashamed. It solved a lot of problems for me. If I could continue like this I would. But I can’t because it is unacceptable that our way has come to this: a little girl standing and screaming on a beach that is soaked with the blood of her relatives, their bodies strewn on the beach, the only people she loved in the world.


How many times can we say it was an accident? Twice? Three times? 20? How many times will it take until we admit that this is what we have become: People who open fire on places where there are children.


I am ashamed that it is possible that somewhere along the way I lost my ability to think independently. It seems logical. Every spokesman’s statement of apology makes it sound like there was no other choice, that we have to kill children sometimes otherwise our hands are tied and we have no right to complain about terror attacks. It never occurred to me that we could have refused, that this would be unacceptable and non-negotiable.


'Cruel and stupid wars'


Target whoever you must assassinate, shoot whomever you must shoot, but we will not tolerate a deal in which children have to die.


I am ashamed because I know in fact how wars are waged. You put down red lines you do not cross. It is much easier to shoot prisoners, to use mustard gas, to send an F-16 into the air and turn Beit Hanoun into a cemetery. We don’t do this because there are things that we simply don’t do. You always wage a war of restraint. It is governed by your moral code, by the need to remain humane; understanding that Jews can’t act like this.


I submit that the Israel’s war is also limited by the knowledge that we as Israelis cannot afford to allow the remains of the Ghalia family to be paraded on television screens from Washington DC to Beijing.


Of course the Qassam attacks on Sderot and the western Negev have to stop – this is imperative – but the killing of children has to stop as well. Yes, we have to do both things, or at least rethink the argument that it is impossible to carry out one without the other. This may be a more difficult mission, but we have always been experts at complicated tasks. The storm of Qassam rockets falling on southern Israel even after the Gaza beach explosion shows that in any case there is no link between incidents. Our war is with the adults. Cruel and stupid as only wars between adults know how to be.


'I am ashamed of myself'


And I pray that the other side won’t do anything in the near future that will cause me to stop being ashamed. No terror attack, no Qassam rocket slamming into a nursery school, no suicide bomber who blows himself up in a shopping mall that will make me forget why I am ashamed. I know how I respond in these situations. Blind rage consumes me, and suddenly I feel that they deserve it all, even their children. I become numb, stupid, evil; and I lash out. Worse than that, I begin acting like them. I don’t want to be like them. The very idea shames me.


I am not willing – not anymore – to be proud of my shame. I’ve been telling myself for a number of years already that that is the difference: They dance on their roofs every time they killed our children. We apologize when their children are killed. They gleefully ‘take responsibility’ for the murder of Donna Galkovich who was killed when a Qassam rocket fell in the Kibbutz Nativ Ha’asara. We sincerely felt our responsibility –for five minutes at least – when 8 year old Iya Al-Estal was killed at the Kissufim junction. Maybe that turns us into better people than the Jihad Islamic operatives but since when do they determine our standards of good and bad?


I am not ashamed in front of them or the Americans or the self proclaimed pious groups of pseudo intellectual British do-gooders who boycotted us last week. It’s much deeper than that. I am ashamed of myself because of what I wanted to be, because of what I once was. I am ashamed because we can’t argue that we have a right to this land if we cannot prove that we know how to conduct ourselves differently. People who fight for their lives -–and that is exactly what we are doing – need to know how to stay humane. And I am ashamed because shame is not enough; killing children has to stop.


A late note: The column had already been submitted when the defense minister and the IDF chief of staff held a news conference. They announced that according to the findings of the initial investigation, it was not an Israeli shell that killed the Ghalia family. They could not say who was responsible or how it happened. However Defense Minister Peretz used the opportunity to express his sorrow over the fact that in the days that had passed since the Gaza beach incident, IDF missiles had killed eight Palestinian civilians in Gaza, including, of course, children.


פרסום ראשון: 06.18.06, 17:44
 new comment
This will delete your current comment