"Delete I said that," the Israeli pilot asked


Nahum Barnea, perhaps the greatest political writer in Israel today, is composing a five-part series looking back at Israel’s recent Gaza operation. His first installment, “Bitter Tears of Victory,” is remarkable.
While the entire piece is worth reading, one moment of dialogue stands out as a stark representation of the tensions and oppositional forces at play within Israel today. This dialogue is between Barnea and an Israeli pilot (represented as A.), a reservist, who flew many sorties over Gaza during the fifty-day operation.
After discussing Israel’s attempts to minimize civilian casualties, and the pilot’s anger at those who claim Israeli pilots disregarded civilian lives, the following moment takes place. The dialogue below occurs just after the pilot expresses that he is at peace with the efforts he saw military personnel take to limit civilian casualties:

Nonetheless, I say, many children and women were killed.
“When you chop wood, chips fly,” A. says.
“Do you know who said that before you?” I ask.
“No,” he says.
He is shocked. “Delete that, delete that I said that,” the pilot asks.
I didn’t delete it. These pilots are wonderful people, but there is a limit to what I can do for the sake of their image.

It is a remarkable moment, the simultaneous acceptance of “collateral damage” amongst Palestinians, and the horror that the metaphor used to represent such acceptance is one made famous by Stalin.
That horror is both a mirror into which most Israelis prefer not to gaze and a window most Israelis want blocked by opaque curtains, something which could equally be said regarding the United States and its drone campaign.
One thing Barnea may have gotten wrong is his attribution. In truth, the “chop wood” quote is a Russian proverb which appears to have been used by Stalin’s right-hand man, Nikolay Ezhov, though its force remains.
What Barnea got right is his representation of a difficult dichotomy in Israel: systemic efforts to minimize Palestinian civilian deaths during war coupled with the systemic disregard for Palestinian life that permeates so much of Israeli society.


What Do You Buy For the Children
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published recently by Oneworld Publications.
Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.

4 thoughts on “"Delete I said that," the Israeli pilot asked

  1. And one thing you get wrong is your failure to acknowledge what for you is an inconvenient fact — that civilians in Gaza were deliberately used as human shields in an utterly horrifying strategy to win a propaganda war.

  2. Unfortunately, The State of Israel is currently under the leadership of the political, cultural, moral and ethical inheritors of Irgun and Lehi. And it shows.
    As far as the events in Gaza recently- the State of Israel wishes to force 1,750,000 Gazans to leave. Maybe potential claims to a portion of the Leviathan and Tamar gas fields have something to do with it, since Lebanese claims are in dispute at this time. Gazan claims would be impossible to ignore or deny.
    The maps in Jewish Israeli schools show the Israeli State inclusive of : the Golan, all of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Despite ICJ determining such claims as illegal.
    In the West Bank, 300 acres of Palestinian land have been seized in the few past weeks for Jewish settlements.

  3. Delete or not, the image is not just printed in the world opinion minds, but the facts of who the Israelis are or have become can’t be denied! No matter what we could philosophy , intellectualize , rationalize , or propagandize. Its all just the same as people see and some will remember ! Where is that Rabbi who asked what do the world want from the Jews! He should also ask what do the Jews want from the Palestinians and the world, then he could see the better and clear picture!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *