Over the years I’ve noticed a phrase repeatedly used in Israeli discussions to indicate that a person is an enthusiastic killer of other human beings: “he’s not a vegetarian” or sometimes, “I’m not a vegetarian.”
Look, President Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize, but he’s not a “vegetarian.” Ask bin Laden. What has happened to various al-Qaeda leaders?
Back in 2001, Rehavam Ze’evi, then tourism minister in the government of Ariel Sharon called for the expulsion of then Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, and his murder if necessary, as The New York Times reported:
“I don’t say eliminate him physically, but send him with a one-way ticket to Tunis,” Rehavam Ze’evi, the tourism minister, said in a telephone interview today. But, he added, “If he resists and his capture requires his physical elimination, I’m not a vegetarian.”
Ze’evi an outspoken advocate of the expulsion of all Palestinians, was himself assassinated in eastern occupied Jerusalem just two weeks after he made this statement, by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. However, it is unknown whether those who carried out the killing were vegetarians.
Sharon, in whose government Ze’evi served, of course, is famous both for his love of killing and of shawarma.
And then there was Gen. Amram Mitzna, who commanded Israeli occupation forces during the brutal crackdown on the first Intifada in the late 1980s. In the early 2000’s this blood-stained general was re-fashioned as a “dovish” peace leader of the Labor Party, leading Haaretz to describe him as a “vegetarian among the wolves.”
There is at least one among Israel’s top brass whose history with violence did lead to actual vegetarianism, Meir Dagan, the former head of Israel’s international assassination organization Mossad. The New Yorker’s David Remnick interviewed Dagan earlier this year:
He clearly eats plenty, but he does not eat meat. (“It’s because of a gruesome event in 1985. I cannot even smell meat or touch it.”) He collects swords. Various military exploits have left what he calls “their memorials”: a bullet in the chest, a bad leg and back, and “metal pieces in my body here and there.”
So it was these examples I had in mind when I saw the new propaganda effort by the Israeli army, an image on its Facebook page celebrating “veganism in the IDF.”
It tells us, for example, that “Soldiers who declare themselves as vegans receive special faux leather military boots.”
This hasbara (propaganda) is supposed to soften the image of Israel’s killer army that is responsible for everything from daily humiliations and abuses of Palestinians, to horrifying crimes against children, to atrocities on a large scale.
But of course it didn’t soften the Israeli army’s image for me. Knowing how lethal some of Israel’s vegetarians are, I shudder to think about what its vegans are capable of doing.