Y’all know the cute rite-of-passage story about the ancient Greek city of Sparta? How they were supposed to steal something without getting caught, so as to show they could be good fighters, and if they were caught they were punished, but for the operational failure of being detected and not for the moral failure of stealing?
Well, like many other things regarding ancient myths, the underlying truth is…gnarlier, shall we say. Oh sure, the young Spartan hoplite-trainee had to steal, but the real “punished for being caught” test was not to steal – it was to kill a man, or more precisely a Helot.
The Helots were the state-owned slaves of the Spartan regime. In order for all the full Spartan citizens to form that ideal “warrior society” and spend their lives from age 7-60 training for and fighting wars, someone else had to raise crops and clean the streets and the dishes and the homes and so on. Enter the Helots – or to be more accurate, enter the Doric Spartans, who around the 7th century BCE conquer the native Messenians and turn them into “Helots”.
Now, this sort of setup required some serious oppression to keep running. The Spartans’ main answer to this problem was a yearly ritual in which they would go through a ceremony of declaring “war” on the long-vanquished and enslaved population. Call it Operation Cast Helot or something. This prevented the Helot numeric advantage from becoming overwhelming, kept any rebelliousness in check and gave the Spartan fighters their famous battle-tested toughness.
The rest of the year the murder of a Helot was a serious offense, albeit on grounds of damaging valuable state property, and not due to the sanctity of life or any effete claptrap of the sort. So the aspiring young tough-guy was challenged to kill himself a Helot – without anyone seeing, so they wouldn’t be forced to punish him. This random, piecemeal slaughter also had a helpfully chilling effect on the Helots.
The Spartan model, although much appreciated by thinkers of a certain kind throughout the years, has never been precisely duplicated. That said, the notion of running wet training drills on your conquered natives is still with us, as evidenced by the latest little story about the most moral army. You know, the one from The Only Democracy[TM]
A few weeks ago, sharp-eyed consumers of the news noticed a cute little hed on YNET: Duvdevan Soldier Discharged For Kicking Bound Palestinian. Duvdevan is the IDF’s elite undercover unit. Members pass as Arabs and infiltrate organizations and demonstrations (and often incite them to violence and even instigate it). In short, at first blush it seemed like a story about the IDF reacting properly and swiftly to unacceptable behavior. And then you read the actual item.
Turns out the boys were out training in the village of Ramon. What do I mean training? Just that. Sneaking around in local garb in the village, in the middle of the night, trying to blend. Well, not a great day at the office for the boys. They were detected. See, Ramon has a pretty rampant crime problem. Folks there have a short fuse when it comes to their property, the nighttime and strangers.
So the stealthy commando kids are observed near the sheep-pen of the Shawakha family. Four Shawakhas run downstairs; One grabs a tire-iron, another a knife, a third a nice thumpin’ stick. They get to the street and the strangers are coming towards them. Rather than identify, or use their guns to deter, the Cherry Boys* keep walking right up to the local guys. When face to face, one of the commandos finally draws a gun. No warning, no “police/army/intelligence/Israelis”. One of the Shawakhas tries to grab the gun (held by a non-identifying plain-clothed thug and suspected thief) and gets shot in the thigh. Then the soldiers shoot another brother in the stomach. Then more shots are fired. Long after any kind of normal person would be declaring who they are and why they shouldn’t be resisted. One Palestinian dead, one severely wounded. One Duvdevan genius with a cut arm.
After all resistance to the boys in camouflage was subdued, and the Helo—Palestinians had their hands cuffed and their asses sat on the ground, one of the soldiers was still furious at them for not realizing he’s an untouchable, so he kicked one of them in the face. And that, to the Israeli embodiment of MSM, was the story. Soldier Kicks Coolie, Bounced From Unit. Not, say, Army Kills Local In Training Fiasco.
For THAT, the IDF (rightly) discharged him. But the practice of training on unwitting natives in this lovely and not-at-all dangerous manner – that, the IDF informed me, was done by proper procedure and after much consideration of all aspects of advisability.
Luckily, while the IDF has yet to reach the level of wisdom associated with giving a shit about what I happen to think, Israel’s veteran human rights NGO B’tselem speaks more softly but carries a bigger stick. After they sent a letter saying “y’all sure this is the way you wanna be?” the IDF about-faced and announced that its own Investigative MP unit would look into it. Uh-huh.
This ain’t the first time, either. I reported on this 2 years ago.
Then last week it turned out it isn’t just Helots they practice on. The good people of Tel Aviv noticed one fine morning that the air has a peculiar, sharp stank to it – above and beyond your normal megalopolis pollution. The authorities stalled for a good long time, playing dumb, and finally broke down admitting it was them doing some hush-hush crap. Who? What? Here the police, Enviro-Protection Ministry and Homeland Security started playing a lively round of Pass the Buck. I feel so much more protected now, I can’t even tell ya.
Finally, in other “Killin Ay-rabs and Getting’ Away With It” news:
A guy killed a Palestinian suspect he had already apprehended and bound. Claimed “his gun went off”. Court told him to his face it was unconvinced of this version. Sentence: Eight months. This is progress of sorts. William Zanzinger only got 6, and he wasn’t a uniformed fighter in the Hosts of the Lord.
Another guy, Colonel Ilan Malka, was found innocent of all wrongdoing in the piecemeal slaughter of the Samouni Family during Operation Poll Jum— I mean, Operation Cast Lead. The real rundown is over at Idan Landau’s blog, but that’s Hebrew. Long story short: IDF enters this neighborhood in Gaza, called Zeytun, takes over the compound owned and inhabited by the Samouni family, and herds all the surrendered civilians (about 100) into a 200 sq. meter space. The army in this case is a unit under the direct command of Col. Malka. He herded them. He knew they were there. Despite this, when he got reports on suspicious movement in that corner, he didn’t go “oh, that’s where i cordoned my tame civilians, lets make sure it ain’t one of them gathering wood for warmth cause they got no power”. He ordered to open fire. On several distinct occasions. Despite this, the IDF self-investigation finds nothing wrong.
There’s more to come, a quick wrap-up of the no good, very bad, not at all useful month Hasbara has had and a lot more… stay tuned.
Oh, while you’re waiting for part B – y’all seen The Hummus Enforcement Agency yet? Get your pita bread ready and go do so. Seriously. Bon Appetit!
Oh, almost forgot: MCA, aka Adam Yauch, AKA the ballsiest Jewboy in music, passed away as most of y’all probably know. RIP, great heart.
*Duvdevan means Cherry in Hebrew.