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Jeff Goldberg’s Open Letter to the Israeli Soldier

From a former IDF solider: Dear Soldier, Here’s the thing. You’ve got to help the children. You’re not Hamas. You’re better than Hamas. So act it. I once asked Abdel-Aziz Rantisi, the late, unlamented Hamas leader, if he would help … Read More

By / January 9, 2009

From a former IDF solider:

Dear Soldier,

Here’s the thing. You’ve got to help the children. You’re not Hamas. You’re better than Hamas. So act it. I once asked Abdel-Aziz Rantisi, the late, unlamented Hamas leader, if he would help an injured Jewish child if  he came across one lying on the street. He said no. And he was a pediatrician by training.

You’re not Rantisi. So when you operate, operate with the children in mind. It’s a burden Hamas has placed on you — it’s no joy to fight an enemy who hides behind his children. But that’s what you’re facing. And when you come across scenes like the one described in this Washington Post story, help the children. Yes, I’m sure the Red Cross makes things up from time to time — they don’t like you and never have — and I’m sure some of the Palestinian self-reporting isn’t accurate, but, really — horrible things still happen, and it’s your responsiblity to protect innocent people, not make their lives even more miserable. I would refer you to this Jewish prayer for the children of Gaza. Understand its message!

If you haven’t read Jeff’s book Prisoners, take your cyber self to Amazon right now and buy a copy. In addition to being a terrific foreign correspondent, Jeff has a talent for spotting the absurdist details of war, a trait I can’t help but add is probably genetically overdetermined in writers whose ancestry derives from the Pale of the Settlement (one thinks of Isaac Babel, Vasily Grossman).

I remember hearing him speak about his experiences over a year ago in Manhattan. If you want a sense of the surrealism of the modern Middle East, consider the following anecdote he related. As a guard at Ketziot Prison in the Negev, Jeff had struck up a few odd but rewarding friendships with Fatah militants, one of whom carried the amity well beyond the walls of his cell (I’m not sure if holiday cards and birthday announcements were exchanged, but they might have been).

Years later Jeff, now an established American reporter, was traveling through the Gaza when he realized he was being followed by a car carrying some farouche, gun-wielding toughs, and that his own driver was making all the wrong turns. Having been kidnapped once before, and being well aware of how these things usually go down in Palestine, he panicked. Then he hit upon a good idea: Call his old inmate friend, who was now in a senior security position in the PLO. The guy answered right away (how’s that for Jeff’s press clout?), and started laughing. I have to paraphrase the conversation since my memory isn’t what it used to be:

"You know I’m being followed."

"Don’t worry about it."

"No, this is serious."

"I said don’t worry about it."

"Wait… Did you… Are these your men? Is this my bodyguard detail?"

Laughter.

"That’s so sweet!"

 

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