On 4 April, a news item on BBC World, introduced as ‘The Israeli Lesson’, dealt with suicide bombing as a potential problem for the Anglo-American axis in Iraq. We were shown footage from Israeli checkpoints in Palestine, where the lesson had already, allegedly, been learned. Palestinian civilians were shown being kicked by soldiers, although of course they were treated this way long before suicide bombing became a tactical problem. Then there were images of terrorist attacks inside Israel along with what seemed to be footage from Iraq of a putative uprising. A British security expert was interviewed, and told us what we already knew: that every Iraqi citizen would, from now on, be treated as a suspect. Since the war had from the beginning been waged against the very idea of Iraqi sovereignty, it was obvious that every Iraqi citizen must be regarded as an enemy and a target. Then came the real Israeli lesson: extracts from an interview with an Israeli colonel who, sitting in a helicopter, had killed a Palestinian boy running for his life on the hills around Bethlehem during the first Intifada. ‘My advice to the Americans,’ this hero said, ‘is don’t be friends with the Iraqis. You are not friends of the Iraqis.’ ‘The language of the mob was only the language of public opinion cleansed of hypocrisy and restraint,’ Hannah Arendt once wrote, in connection with the demise of law in the face of a threat to the national interest. Here in Israel, as in the US, the language of the mob and of public opinion have converged: there is no restraint; there are no euphemisms.
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