Many soldiers in the Israeli Defense Forces [IDF] get customized T-Shirts made for their units, not an unusual military custom. Some of the slogans and images, however, are incredibly revealing about Israel’s attitudes toward Palestinians and their ongoing slaughter of Arabs, abetted by U.S. money and munitions, and facilitated by outcries of anger, but little real action, by most of the rest of the world. Indeed, if one reads the papers of records here in the U.S., especially the New York Times and Washington Post, he/she will find significantly diminished coverage of Israeli’s attacks on Gaza and elsewhere over the past couple of months. Fortunately, the Israeli paper Haaretz has done a much better job. [On U.S. reporting on Gaza, see, inter alia, Marina Litvinsky's article at http://ipsnews.net/print.asp?idnews=45624 ].
Back to those T-Shirts . . . In a recent article in Haaretz, we learn the following:
Dead babies, mothers weeping on their children’s graves, a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosques – these are a few examples of the images Israel Defense Forces soldiers design these days to print on shirts they order to mark the end of training, or of field duty. The slogans accompanying the drawings are not exactly anemic either: A T-shirt for infantry snipers bears the inscription “Better use Durex,” next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him. A sharpshooter’s T-shirt from the Givati Brigade’s Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull’s-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, “1 shot, 2 kills.” A “graduation” shirt for those who have completed another snipers course depicts a Palestinian baby, who grows into a combative boy and then an armed adult, with the inscription, “No matter how it begins, we’ll put an end to it.”
There is more. The Lavi battalion featured a shirt depicting a soldier next to a bruised young woman with the slogan “Bet you got raped!” Some images confirm policies that the IDF officially denies, such as shooting a bullet into an “enemy’s” head at close range to confirm the kill, or harming religious sites, or attacking women or children. For more, and more sordid examples, see the article at http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1072466.html.
These are not hidden messages, but boasts, worn openly and without recrimination. Yet, if one follows the traditional, elite U.S. media, there is no mention of such actions. Indeed, in a Gallup Poll taken just a few weeks ago, 59 percent of Americans, a number about as high as its been in the past two decades, are more sympathetic to the Israelis, while about 18 percent surveyed, a number virtually unchanged since the 1980s, are sympathetic to the Palestinians. This sets up the U.S. in a difficult position, since that same polling data showed that only 15 percent of those in the Middle East/North Africa region, and only 23 percent of Europeans, 34 percent of Asians, and just 35 percent of those polled in The Americas approved of the U.S. role in the world [http://www.gallup.com/poll/116308/Americans-Support-Israel-Unchanged-Gaza-Conflict.aspx ].
If one expected the Obama victory to change that, it hasn’t. Indeed, Obama has assured Tel Aviv that the promised $30 billion in aid to Israel over the next decade will not be cut or affected by the world economic crisis [see http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1070318.html ]. In fact, the Palestinians, pledged $900 million, or about 3 percent of the promise to Israel, have been told by Secretary of State Clinton that U.S. support will be withdrawn if they don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist or if they don’t renounce violence. No such caveats, of course, would ever be placed on Israel. [On Clinton's ultimatum, see http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1070450.html].
Meantime, as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan termed it “Palestine today is an open-air prison.” [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/30/AR2009013002809.html]. Even JTA, self-described as “The Global News Service of the Jewish People,” admitted that Palestinian rocket attacks in early March “were fired . . . in apparent response to an Israeli air attack in central Gaza,” an admission I could not find in the U.S. papers of record. [see http://jta.org/news/article/2009/03/05/1003474/kassams-hit-israel-after-gaza-attack]. Richard Falk, an UN envoy and expert on international law, and longtime critic of U.S. support of criminal regimes, has called Israel’s actions in Gaza a war crime of “the greatest magnitude.” [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1072481.html ]. And, most powerfully, Haaretz has continued to detail the atrocities committed by Israel since the Gaza invasion began. [see, most recently, "Shooting and Crying," at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1072475.html ].
To be sure, there are still significant political elements in the U.S. that will support the Obama administration’s continued support to Tel Aviv [and some which apparently inhabit a parallel universe in which Obama is anti-Israel-see for instance, the inestimable John Bolton's effort at http://www.nypost.com/seven/03132009/postopinion/opedcolumnists/team_obamas_anti_israel_turn_159276.htm] and the likelihood of a Netanyahu government in Israel assures that the brutal attacks on Gazans will at least continue and quite likely intensify.
Meantime, the T-Shirt makers of Israel should see their business continue briskly, and could make even more money by selling rags to wipe off the blood-stained hands of the Israelis and their American patrons who are engaging in simply inhuman and brutal slaughter against the people of Gaza and Palestine.