One can write endlessly about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as I do, and never feel one has conveyed a proper sense of a peculiar pathology that has taken hold of many in Israeli society and makes them so impervious to any kind of self-reflection and self-criticism. We are all susceptible to this kind of unreason, of course, but Israel seems to privilege it to a disturbing degree.
Here is a drawing of Adolf Hitler, one of several doodles done by an Israeli soldier on an officer training course. He seems to have some talent. The drawing so impressed a fellow soldier she asked if she could have it to frame it. So far, so harmless.
But then the existence of the caricature comes to the attention of his commanders. They are not only appalled, they think he has committed a “serious, unthinkable crime”. He is expelled from the course, as is the woman who framed the drawing. The battalion commander suggests the soldier should be referred to a psychologist and sectioned for insanity. Furthermore, the commander accuses the soldiers’ comrades of behaving like Nazi collaborators for not informing on him.
Here is how Haaretz describes the interrogation of the soldier by his commanders:
The cadet asserted that he saw nothing wrong with drawing Hitler’s image alongside those of the others, and that during the company talk he had felt bored and sought to pass the time by sketching. He recalled that at the end of class he meant to throw out the drawings, but one of his colleagues was impressed by their quality and asked to keep them. He also told his officers that he is the grandson of Holocaust survivors, and added that he had taken an active part in the educational series the cadets completed at Yad Vashem [Holocaust museum in Jerusalem], and had even cried there.
Now, who is the one demonstrating a degree of insanity here: the caricaturist soldier, or his commanders?
And, let’s not forget, it is these commanders who are inculcating the values of the next generation of soldiers in the “most moral army in the world”.