Mondoweiss / December 13, 2022
New Knesset member Zvika Fogel told an interviewer that “the concept of proportionality must cease to exist” and that he is prepared to make “a thousand Palestinian mothers cry.”
Zvika Fogel, a retired Brigadier General and member of Israel’s fascistic Jewish Power party has apparently shaken many around the world in the interview on Friday with British Channel 4, where he opined (in Hebrew) that “we are too merciful,” that “the concept of proportionality must cease to exist,” and that “if it is one Israeli mother crying, or a thousand Palestinian mothers crying, then a thousand Palestinian mothers will cry” – in other words, that a thousand grieving Palestinian mothers are definitely an acceptable price to prevent a one Jewish death.
This was part of an 8-minute news story of the escalating tensions in Palestine-Israel, including developments in Israeli politics as well as Palestinian resistance, including armed resistance. Foreign correspondent Secunder Kermani gets very close to these people, both the colonialist Israeli settlers as well as Palestinian resistance fighters, interviewing all of them. He also got very close to Zvika Fogel, and the two are seen walking together and conversing more informally before the actual interview.
In the interview with Fogel, featuring only a few short sequences, Fogel is answering Kermani’s questions in Hebrew. This is not because he can’t speak English – he was seen chatting in English with Kermani just earlier. In the published sequences, Fogel’s words, his whole demeanor, seems to carry a caricature of an unapologetic, raw, brutish bully, a kind of Jewish supremacist skinhead, if you like. The usage of Hebrew, which needs to be dubbed and subtitled, appears to be strategic, not incidental. This is an internal message to his own constituency, which is highly nationalist.
There is also the more specific message that Fogel is sending concerning the concept of proportionality. Proportionality informs international law and is central to it, and Israel has long been pretending to apply it, despite its egregiously disproportionate killing of Palestinians. Its Supreme Court regularly refers to it even when it blue-stamps Israeli violations of international law (which the settlements for example are all an example of). Here Fogel is saying – enough of that, let’s not even pretend.
Fogel’s own twitter bio projects this same message (in Hebrew): “The direction of the sail, and not the direction of the wind, will determine our path”.
Fogel’s views are not new
Many will probably try to suggest that Fogel is an exception, a representation of something that is far more extreme than “the Israel we knew”, as New York Times columnist Tom Friedman would put it. But it is precisely why it is important to note, that his views are actually representing a far more mainstream view of Palestinians and “proportionality” than one might think.
Fogel’s views are an echo of Gadi Eisenkot’s Dahiya doctrine, which he announced in 2008, it goes like this:
“In every village from which they will fire at Israel, we will use disproportionate force and inflict enormous damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases” (my emphasis).
Eisenkot, then head of the Israeli army, was saying that Israel will expand the capacity for destruction it demonstrated in 2006 in Dahiya, the Shi’ite quarter in Beirut, where many families of Hizbollah members resided. That is why it became known as the Dahiya Doctrine.
The major Gaza onslaught that followed Eisenkot’s declaration was in December 2008-January 2009. The UN fact-finding mission regarding that onslaught referred to that Dahiya Doctrine, and concluded that “from a review of the facts on the ground that it witnessed for itself that what is prescribed as the best strategy appears to have been precisely what was put into practice” – that is, the Dahiya Doctrine, which the mission concluded, amounted to “a deliberately disproportionate attack, designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population”.
Gadi Eisenkot portrays himself as a liberal. Eisenkot, in his following new political career, has recently joined forces with Benny Gantz, who was his predecessor as army chief of staff, to create the right-centrist National Union (with former Likudnik Gideon Sa’ar), one of the anti-Netanyahu opposition forces which failed to overhaul Netanyahu coalition.
And it is striking how Benny Gantz follows the same line of brutality. When he entered politics in 2019, his entry campaign, then under the party name Resilience to Israel, featured a video of pulverized Gazan neighborhoods, about which Gantz boasted of returning Gaza to the “stone age.” His party slogan was “Israel before everything”, a kind of Israeli version of “America first”. He appears to have even extended the Dahiya principles to encompass civil society and human rights organizations, as he declared six of these organizations “terrorist”, with no available evidence.
The latter two are supposed to be Israel’s liberal counterweight to the far-right, where the prospect of the Jewish Power leader Itamar Ben Gvir as National Security Minister is supposed to be a scary scenario which would lead Israel to blood and chaos. But it’s clear there’s a lot of Jewish Power going around, and it’s not just Itamar Ben Gvir nor Zvika Fogel. It’s an integral part of Israel’s Zionist militarism.
Sometimes advocates for this militarism wear a kippa, sometimes not. Sometimes they speak about God, sometimes they just talk about the stone age. Sometimes they speak of the God of Israel but they really mean the God of Jews. Sometimes they call it Resilience to Israel and they mean the Jewish state. But they mean Jewish power, in one way or another. It’s all the result of one brutal ideology meant to serve the self-declared Jewish state – Zionism.
Those who realize its settler-colonial nature are not surprised by the violence it exerts as an integral part of its venture to ethnically cleanse the native population and quash resistance to it. That’s how we need to understand Zvika Fogel’s interview and the Jewish Power party’s unapologetic advocacy for brute force. They did not come out of a vacuum; they are the logical result of Zionism.
Jonathan Ofir is an Israeli musician, conductor and blogger/writer based in Denmark