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The Cross of Bethlehem

The Cross of Bethlehem II

On War Semantics: Civilian Cities



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Ministry of Defense, Tel Aviv, Israel

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Semantics are a key element in state propaganda. In 2006 there was a dramatic reminder. "Kidnapped Soldiers" blared the Israeli headlines in 2006, after a soldier was captured in Gaza and two in Southern Lebanon. I was surprised. Since when is a soldier "kidnapped?" Were they watering their mothers' gardens at the time? No, they were participating in military events. Soldiers are never kidnapped; they are captured. Afterwards they should be treated according to the international Geneva Convention. That one simple semantic deceit by the Israeli media kidnapped the nation's mind and led to a minor war against the Hezbollah in Lebanon.

This is not the only example. For Israelis, it is difficult to free their minds from the constant Goebbels-styled propaganda of their government. This is especially true with all the topics related to “terror,” a highly undefined term which is regularly used to hide cheap propaganda. A recurring theme is “terrorists attack civilians.” In fact, this appears as part of the definition of “terror” in many places. Most people accept that without further check. However, Israeli headlines blare, while Israeli reality is blurred.

Israeli reality is blurred to such an extent that I had problems choosing a proper entry point to this article. Probably the best is from the top. Main Israeli cities are administered by former high ranking military officers. Many of them occupy the municipalities and often they become mayors. Whenever they reach this last post, they keep it for eons. In Tel Aviv, two generals enter into this category: Shlomo "Chich" Lahat (1974-1993) and Ron Huldai (1998-present). The last is closely related to Aviem Sella, who recruited Jonathan Pollard to spy for Israel. This over-abundance of general doubling as mayors is not casual; the proper function of Israeli cities depends on proper communication channels with the IDF.

The picture at the top of this page is of the Israeli Ministry of Defense in downtown Tel Aviv. The building was built by foreign contractors since Israel lacks the technology needed to build such communication towers; despite its look it is not straight, a solid reminder of the qualities displayed there. It occupies a large part of an area known as “Hakirya” (“The Town” in Hebrew). The IDF Headquarters building (Matkal) and the Bor (“hole” in Hebrew) – the IDF main command post during peace time - are also there. Some of the special tests I passed – described in The Cross of Bethlehem - took place in related buildings in the immediate vicinity. In fact big chunks of Tel Aviv and the adjacent towns – which form the Gush Dan Metropolitan Area – are occupied by military bases. That’s even before commenting on the Shin Beth and Mossad buildings plaguing the city. Interestingly, while traveling around the city many years ago in the company of a Dow Chemical executive, I passed near the Tel Aviv University. On the nearby cliffs watching the town of Ramat Gan is the scary building housing the Shin Beth headquarters. The guest took one look at the narrow-windowed monster and said: “This is Shin Beth!”

However, that’s not all. Until now one could hardly complain. Many cities have mayors related to the main industry providing jobs to the denizens. The IDF is the largest organization in Israel, though it is mainly a reserve army. The regular part of the army is not large enough even to block a coordinated attack against the State of Israel. The recruiting of the reserve army must be done quickly in case of need and it is based on close cooperation by the mayors and their cities.

Large groups of men must be recruited in a hurry and distributed to their units. The recruiting for the Defensive Wall Operation in 2002 is described extensively in The Cross of Bethlehem. The places chosen for such an event are invariably schools. In such a way, the Israeli administration blurs the limit between civilian and military installations, creating space to claim any military attack against it is a terror attack. “Terrorists attack civilians,” they say, but the civilians are part of the reserve army. “Terrorists attack civilian installations,” they say, but the installations belong to the reserve army; another immoral manipulation of the Semantics of War.

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