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Listen to the pilots


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Listen to the pilots

By David Grossman

Now that the furor over the pilots' declaration has

abated a bit, perhaps the time has come to listen

attentively to the essence of what they wanted to

say in their protest. Even if, in the end, "the

voice of the masses" silences the pilots and even

if some of them retract their protest, there is

still validity and importance to what they have

said. Basic fairness also says that a government

and a people that send their sons to carry out the

difficult and sometimes dirty work of this

particular war on their behalf must listen, for

once, in an unbiased way to what the people who

are doing these things in their name are saying.

The bottom line of the pilots'

message is that if the

Palestinians are currently

capable of carrying out painful

attacks on Israel and Israeli

citizens, the war that is

raging is still, ultimately, a

war between a military power

and a civilian population. And

in a war of this sort, Israel

must impose limitations on

itself of both a practical and a moral nature.

The pilots are reminding the Israelis that even

if the aim of the military action is to hit a

murderer who is to die, when a state orders its

pilots to drop a 1-ton bomb into a residential

neighborhood in the most densely populated

place in the world, and with the clear

knowledge that hundreds of innocent civilians

are likely to get hurt, its action, to a

significant extent, employs the methods of a

terror organization. And when a state orders

its pilots to use powerful missiles to hit a

car that is driving in the midst of passersby,

even if it does not want to harm them

intentionally, the nature of the deed, as well

as its results, are like those of a terror


A state is not entitled to act in the same

manner as a terror organization. It is worth

remembering this even today, when our blood is

boiling after the brutal terror attack in

Haifa. One of the reasons for this is the

destructive influence that such a mode of

action has on the society itself. Another

reason is that a state is not entitled to carry

out assassinations and murders and executions

without trial, because then it loses the

legitimacy of its claims against the terror


And when the commander of the Israel Air Force

says that "anyone who sets out to murder

children in Israel has to take into account

that in his own surroundings there are children

who could get killed," he must understand that

such an argument could serve as a double-edged

sword, even if Israel does not harm children on


An obdurate government, which for a long time

now has been thwarting any chance of

negotiations and is using only force, force and

more force with the Palestinians, is condemning

its soldiers to torture themselves with

unbearable moral dilemmas. Is it entitled to

turn its back on them and be insulted and

shocked, when these people are beginning, after

so many years, to understand the use that is

being made of them? Hasn't the time come to

face the contents of what they have to say, and

look straight into the mirror they have

positioned - courageously and with a full

willingness to pay the price - in front of all

of Israel society?

The IDF has always proudly proclaimed that in

its air force, it is not the aircraft that is

the main thing, but the pilot, the man inside

the machine. Every Israeli soldier grew up on

the (oxymornonic) principle of purity of arms

and every Isreli grew up on the belief that the

IDF is the most humane and moral army in the

world. How can the IDF top brass today deny

that there are people there, inside the planes

and the helicopters? What is the reason for the

hermetic insensitivity of the majority of the

public, which is not even prepared to listen

for a moment to the distress of the people from

whom it demands - not only to pursue a war

against the enemy, but also to take upon their

consciences, for their entire lives, the

unnecessary killing of innocent men, women and


Something in the public's stormy and almost

hysterical reaction that gives the impression

that the "lynch mob" after the pilots does not

derive only from the fact of the refusal to

carry out missions: It seems that the more

difficult thing, the unbearably difficult

thing, that the pilots have done is that, in

total surprise, they have torn off most

Israelis the protective layer in which they

have wrapped themselves for years so as not to

know or understand what is really being done in

their name.

This, perhaps, is also what is behind the absurd

accusation of treason that is being cast at the

pilots: If they have betrayed at all, they have

betrayed only the huge, consensual denial, the

collective blindness. For one moment, the

pilots succeeded in creating the frightening,

electrifying connection between what Israel has

been doing in the territories for 36 years now

and the terror attacks, and for this,

apparently, it is hard to forgive them. It is

possible to choose not to read the reports by

Amira Hass and Gideon Levy, but when Hebrew

pilots, the flesh of the flesh of the Israeli

consensus and the jewel in its crown, force us

to look, if only for a fleeting moment, into

the heart of the darkness - the first instinct

is to get out of there in a panic, patch up the

rent that has been torn in the sophisticated

flak jacket that protects us from the knowledge

and understanding, and immediately - as we were

taught in the IDF - to attack and fight back,

this time against the pilots.

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I'ts a nice sentiment, but I doubt anything positive will come out of that.

Those pilots will get punished and prosecuted by the government, pure and simple. Any terrorists that might have heard what they had to say probably laughed and thought "okay, we won't bomb YOUR houses but we'll still bomb your country".

They're gong to face serious shit for doing what they did. Pilots in that country are some of the most esteemed members of society. To hear that any might be unreliable in any way is a threat to the government and a threat to the cohesion of their armed forces.

It sucks, but they're going to pay for taking a stand

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I for one can respect these pilots for taking a stand. It's hard to come out as an Israeli and speak your mind when you know the people in control aren't going to be the least bit pleased with your actions and words. I can really respect their actions.

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