OCCUPIED LYDD, PALESTINE — Matan Kahana — a retired IDF colonel, fighter pilot, and former soldier in Israel’s notorious murder squad, Sayeret Matkal — is now running for a seat in the Knesset with Naftali Bennett’s New Right Party. He is a “religious Zionist,” which is a designation used by fanatic religious-Zionist settlers who roam around the West Bank terrorizing Palestinians.
Kahana says that he is not a “Settler,” a statement with which most Israelis would agree because he lives in a town that is not in the West Bank. Yet in a recent tweet, he posted a video of himself speaking in front of Israeli high school students and, perhaps unknowingly, admitting to being not only a settler but a thief. Here is what he said in response to a question by one of the students:
Do we want peace? Of course we want peace. Do we want to have a terrorist state right here along route 6 [the main highway going north to south], with tunnels into Kfar Saba [an Israeli colony that is not in the West Bank] and missiles pointing at Ben Gurion airport? We don’t want that.
I live in Beit Gamliel; it is not a settlement, it is between Rehovot and Yavne, [i.e., inside the 1948 borders]. In my parents’ vineyard there is a well and the well was dug by Palestinians. The orange orchard in our town, and orchard from which I ate oranges as a boy, was planted by Palestinians prior to 1948.
The twisted logic that says if we go back to the 1967 borders there will be peace and all will be good is stupid. It won’t happen, ok, it won’t happen. That’s why first of all we have to be strong and to defeat our enemies, and when they understand that no one will move us from here, then we will start to talk to them about how we lead normal lives here. That is what we believe.”
In the Israeli political discourse, “Settler” and “Settlement” refer only to Israeli colonies and to the Israelis who live in the West Bank. I responded to Kahana’s tweet, stating that this means he knows that the land, the orchard and the well were stolen from Palestinians. So how is this his homeland? His reply:
Obviously, just like Tel-Aviv University sits on land that used to belong to Palestinians.”
He then told me about the Bible and how his people were exiled two thousand years ago, though it is highly unlikely he can prove his family’s roots are Palestinian going back two thousand years.
The message to young Israelis
Kahana is a veteran of the two most admired and respected branches of the Israeli army. Practically every young Israeli boy wants to be a fighter in Sayeret Matkal, the most prestigious commando brigade in the Israeli army. Practically all soldiers who end up in other commando units tried first and failed to get into Sayeret Matkal. It is a badge of honor that lasts a lifetime, albeit a dubious one if one is familiar with the record of the Israeli army. The only other military service that is considered more prestigious is to be a fighter pilot.
Kahana did both.
He first completed his mandatory three-year service in the commando unit and then went on to become a fighter pilot. To be clear, this is not stated here in order to glorify what had to have been a career of savagery soaked in Palestinian blood. However, this is the type of person that an Israeli high school student would look up to. Some would even admire and want to emulate, even if it meant accomplishing only one of his military successes. This is the man speaking at an Israeli high school and telling students that the only way for them to survive, to live in what he calls “our homeland,” is to defeat the other people who call Palestine home, the indigenous people of Palestine, the Palestinians. Once they are defeated we will talk to them.
Right of the Likud
It is hard to imagine what it means to be to the “right of the Likud” or the “right of Netanyahu.” However, Kahana claims that he and his party are just that and so a vote for them will ensure a strong right-wing voice in the Israeli Knesset, as though that is what is missing from Israeli politics. The parties that identify themselves as “right of Netanyahu” are also pushing hard for the annexation of Area C, which means in practical terms that Palestinians will have no access or right to live in the largest part of the West Bank. They also want to see a more aggressive push for “Judaizing” the expanded Jerusalem, which means more home demolitions and land confiscation in the towns bordering the city.
Netanyahu understands this risk and knows he must appease the right-wing base. He is acting to get as many of these right-wing voters to vote Likud as opposed to the smaller parties. If he can in fact take two or three seats from the extreme right — what one might call neo-fascist in other countries — he will be victorious once again and, unlike following the election results of last April, he will have no problem forming a coalition.
The short clip of Matan Kahana speaking to high school students can be considered only as teaching hate. He presents a perspective that allows for the conflict to be resolved only by force. He also makes mention of the Palestinians only as unwilling to compromise and as a people whose very recognition poses a threat of violence: a Palestinian entity will be a “terror state” that will lead to terror tunnels and missiles. Furthermore he justifies the theft and disposession Palestinians have suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of Zionist colonizers, and he adds:
Anyone who believes giving away part of the homeland will bring peace is living in La La Land.”
Feature photo | Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks through the periscope of the INS Rahav submarine during a tour inside it with Israeli Commander Ram Rothberg. Photo | Israel GPO
Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”