Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What are 20 tons of explosives?

By Amira Hass

"Finally, in contrast to Palestinian weaponry, which is quantifiable, it is impossible to quantify the amount of "explosives" in Israel's hands - all the different types of shells and bombs, all the weapons that Israeli soldiers use or will use. The IDF Spokesman's Office does not volunteer that information, but in any case, the quantities are enormous, and they are constantly being restocked, whether through imports or through the flourishing Israeli arms industry. Before the recent war in Lebanon, did anyone calculate how many millions of cluster bombs Israel had in its warehouses (of which 1.2 million were fired during the war, as Meron Rapoport reported in this newspaper on September 12)?

And therefore, what exists in Israelis' consciousness is not the millions of cluster bombs - that is, the flying mines - or the tens of millions of bombs and shells and lethal bullets stored in our arms warehouses and our gun barrels and the bellies of our helicopters and planes. Although the amount of such explosives is measured in the millions of tons, it is the 20 tons of explosives and the few thousand rifles that permeate the Israeli consciousness.

Israelis are convinced that we are facing an existential danger. But what has been erased from the Israeli consciousness is that Israel is a weapons superpower, and that the weapons this state has, as is the nature of all weapons, are lethal and frightening.

The Israeli media, of course, cooperates with this distortion of reality. It devoutly reports every shot fired by the Palestinians and every rocket they launch - even when they cause no harm. But Israeli bullets and shells, which are fired routinely, do not exist in the media unless there are fatalities, and even those are quickly forgotten.

The purpose of instilling such fear in Israelis is to win ongoing support for the IDF's policy of constant escalation. The security establishment is not neutral. Its members, no less than bureaucrats in any other system, want to perpetuate the rationale for their existence and their salaries. They need public silence about the free use the IDF makes of the weapons and ammunition that it puts into its soldiers' hands. This serial intimidation is meant to give the IDF a free hand while it expands its operational infrastructure, perhaps to the point of using thousands of cluster bombs on Gaza, too.

The military establishment in Israel is joined at the hip with the political decision-making establishment, and hyping the security threat facing Israelis, while completely disengaging from the reality of the Israeli occupation, assures continued Israeli support for the myth that there is a military "solution" but not a political one. This in turn provides support for the ongoing regime of occupation and dispossession, and for the privileges that this bestows on Israelis."

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