When people talk of “remembering” the service of military soldiers, it’s typically associated with vague, irrational, nationalistic appreciation the supposed virtues of taking orders of violence while in uniform. Memorial day is supposed to memorialize the greatness, valor, sacrifice, benevolence of a nation’s warriors in the military.
Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli invasion and assault of Gaza, took place three years ago now. Up to 1,400 Palestinians were killed in attacks by Israeli forces, while some 5,000 were injured. Hundreds of those killed, up to half by some estimates, were unarmed civilians, including some 300 children, more than 115 women and some 85 men over the age of 50. Billions of dollars of infrastructure damage and numerous incidents of IDF attacks on civilian facilities, among other crimes, were committed. The Israeli government to this day is imposing barriers to justice for the victims of that war.
On the third anniversary of that adventure, Amira Hass will be turning the nationalistic memorializing on its head:
On the third anniversary of the Cast Lead onslaught, we remember the anonymous soldiers who fired on a red car, in which a father, Mohammed Shurrab, and his two sons were returning home from their farm lands…
We will remember the pilot who delivered the bomb that killed Mahmoud al-Ghoul, a high-school student, and his uncle Akram, an attorney, at the family’s home in northern Gaza. We will remember the soldiers who analyze photographs taken by drones, who decided that a truck conveying oxyacetylene cylinders for welding, owned by Ahmad Samur, was carrying Grad rockets – a decision that led to an order to bomb the vehicle from the air which, in turn, led to the deaths of eight persons, four of them minors.
It goes on like that as Hass highlights one serious war crime committed by Israel Defense Force soldiers and makes clear that it was Israel who broke the ceasefire that led to Operation Cast Lead, not Gazans.
To me, that’s a far more palatable way to remember our own martial offensives. Of course, its the farthest thing from what is done in “polite society.” But next time someone like Defense Secretary Leon Panetta praises the “sacrifice” of those U.S. troops who served in the Iraq war, insisting that they left “with great pride – lasting pride,” one should instead try to institute a memorial for the nameless U.S. soldiers who raided an Iraqi home in 2006, bound up the limbs of one man, four women, two children, and three infants and shot them all in the head before calling in an airstrike to destroy the evidence. When Memorial Day comes around again, let us not miss the opportunity to commemorate the U.S. Special Operations Forces who surrounded a house in a village in the Paktia Province in Afghanistan in February 2010 and murdered two men, a pregnant mother of ten, a pregnant mother of six, and a teenage girl and then falsified evidence, blaming it on the Taliban before being later found out. Let us memorialize the drone operator who pressed the button and mutilated the one year old Pakistani girl now seeking medical treatment in Texas.
Maybe that will be the first step in abandoning the distorted memorializing of government’s greatest crimes.