A zionist settler riding on a bike with a machine gun dangling over his shoulder.

The Elmasry Kerfuffle

Ken Hechtman

Montreal October 26, 2004 (MMN): I have a general rule for evaluating inflammatory statements about the Middle East. If they're not that bad turned back to front, they're not that bad. On the October 19th edition of the Michel Coren show Canadian Islamic Congress Presdient Mohammed Elmasry said, " Anybody above 18 is a part of the Israeli army [...] everybody above 18 is a combatant [...] they are not innocent in civilian clothes."

(See: Transcript Of Dr. Mohamed Elmasry's Remarks On Michel Coren Show )

Listen, wake me up when an Israeli soldier, say one of the "Cherries", the Border Police undercover death squads, tells his commanding officer, "That Hamas guy you wanted us to kill? He was off-duty. Couldn't do it." Or, "He's taking a leave right now. Some kind of family thing. We'll try again next month." It'll never happen. When the Israelis decide a Palestinian is the enemy, he's the enemy 24-7-52.

Same rules apply to the Israelis. Nobody who enforces the occupation -- doing everything that it involves -- for one month every year should become untouchable for the other 11 just because he took off his soldier hat and stepped across an imaginary line on the ground. It's just not that kind of war. A conversation about the advisability of no-quarter-asked-and-none-given total war given its long term effects on the men who fight it would be an interesting and productive one to have, but that's a different conversation. Dr. Elmasry was talking about what kind of war it is.

The line that "There are no Israeli civilians, only soldiers on leave" is a fairly famous one. Palestinian supporters say it a lot. But it wasn't a Palestinian who said it first. It was, interestingly enough, a general of the Israeli Army Reserves. Strange days indeed when a Muslim spokesman might lose his job for quoting or saying the same thing as an Israeli general on the nature of the Israeli army.

That being said, it's wrong. Not beyond the pale, considering what the other side is saying and doing , but definitely wrong on the facts. There *are* Israeli civilians. Religious students, several thousand of them at any given time, are exempt from the draft. "Gray" refuseniks, the ones who avoid military service without making a political case of it, represent a third of new draftees and two-thirds of reservists.

More to the point, there are Israelis who support (to greater or lesser degrees) the Palestinian cause. There are the Ha'aretz readers, the Meretz voters, the ICAHD house-builders, the Ta'ayoush blockade-runners and the ISM human shields. Take enough random samples of "Israelis over 18", say the ones in a bus or a disco or a pizzeria, and some of them are going to turn up.

Ken Hechtman is a freelance writer in Montreal