In Israel, the murder of Palestinians and their mutilation is openly applauded at the highest levels. Is anyone in the West watching? asks Saleh Al-Naami
The tension in the audience was apparent last Saturday as it waited for Emanuel Rozin, presenter of the popular Israeli television Channel Two, to announce the channel's "man of the [Hebrew] year". To heighten the audience's suspense, Rozin listed the personality's achievements before announcing his name.
"He's the man who has only done good deeds... He's the person who is famed for cutting off Palestinians' heads with a Japanese knife... He's the man who was born with a knife between his teeth... He's the head of Mossad, Meir Dagan!" The hall thundered with applause when Rozin announced Dagan as man of the year.
Rozin made sure to mention some of Dagan's "secret" achievements, especially the assassination of Hizbullah operations commander Imad Mughniyah, and providing the intelligence information that allowed the Israeli air force to bomb a research station in northeast Syria, among others. After announcing Dagan man of the year, the station broadcast a profile of him that addressed his achievements during his military service and as the head of Mossad.
All of Dagan's colleagues and acquaintances that were interviewed heaped praise on his creativity in killing Palestinians and Arabs. Retired General Yossi Ben Hanan, who was a colleague of Dagan's, was witness to his insistence on killing Palestinians himself once they were turned over to him. Ben Hanan praised his close friend effusively for this.
Just before and after Dagan was chosen man of the year, a number of press reports were published about atrocities he committed against Palestinian and Lebanese civilians. These reports, written by top Israeli journalists, confirm that Dagan was promoted as a result of these atrocities.
Aluf Ben Ahed, a senior commentator in Haaretz newspaper, published a report on Dagan on 26 September in which he wrote that former prime minister Ariel Sharon himself insisted that Dagan be appointed head of Mossad, "due to his immense experience and his hobby of cutting off Arabs' heads," as he put it.
Ben Ahed wrote that the relationship between Sharon and Dagan went back to the early 1970s when Sharon was commander of the southern region and Dagan was commander of the death squad Rimonim and Sharon entrusted Dagan with arresting and killing Palestinian resistance fighters in the Gaza Strip.
Sharon greatly enjoyed watching Dagan personally sever the heads of Palestinian resistance fighters after killing them. Ben Kasbit wrote that a number of soldiers who served under Dagan in the Gaza Strip during that period later suffered from psychological complexes due to their execution of Dagan's orders to kill Palestinians in atrocious manners. After leaving the military service, some of them later committed criminal murders, and when they were tried they said that they had been affected by the atrocities they had committed against Palestinians under Dagan's orders.
Journalist Gideon Levy published an article 2 October in which he revealed that the military censors had barred the publication of a report that journalists had prepared years ago on atrocities Dagan had committed against Lebanese civilians when he was commander of the Israeli army in southern Lebanon in the 1980s. If Israeli military censors allow the publication of reports that confirm Dagan's hobby of cutting off Palestinians' heads, it can be assumed that what they barred publication of was even more appalling.
Al-Ahram Weekly has collected Palestinian testimonies from witnesses to Dagan's atrocities in the Gaza Strip during the 1970s when he was commander of the Rimonim unit. Rabia Abu Samheh, 63, who lives in the Al-Maghazi Refugee Camp, was one such witness.
In July of 1971, Abu Samheh was on her way home to the western quarter of the camp after a visit to a friend in the eastern quarter when she noticed that the camp's main street was completely empty: it had been raided by members of the Rimonim unit, who wore red military caps. When she drew near to the camp's main mosque, she witnessed a scene she would never forget. Soldiers opened fire on three young Palestinian men, and then a soldier placed one of the dead men in a garbage pit near the mosque. Abu Samheh was overwhelmed by the scene and forgetting her fear rushed towards the soldiers to prevent them from placing the other two men in the pit. They beat her with their rifle butts until blood streamed down her face.
Salem Sarirat, 58, lives near the Gaza Strip-Israel border. He says that he was herding sheep in the pasture by his house when he heard military vehicles nearby. He rushed home and watched what happened from his window, seeing Rimonim soldiers take two young Palestinian men out of one of the vehicles and tie them to a tree. Then a soldier Sarirat claims was Dagan approached them with a knife in his hand. He sank it into one of the youth's necks as he screamed and then violently jerked it in all directions until his head was cut off. Then he did the same thing to the other boy.
Ben Aluf and Ben Kasbit agree that Dagan won the award for boldness in his achievements as commander of the Rimonim unit. Gideon says that no one else has headed Mossad who committed atrocities, crimes, and bloodletting like Dagan.
Ronin Briegman, intelligence correspondent for the widely circulated Yediot Aharonot newspaper, published a report 7 August that said that Sharon was annoyed by the approach of Ephraim Helevi, Dagan's predecessor as head of Mossad, because the agency did not commit assassinations during his term that would have proven Israel's strength and reach. Sharon was also irritated that it did not undertake the mission of thwarting the Iranian nuclear programme, a mission that Dagan brought back to Mossad.
Briegman says that the list of operations executed by Mossad during Dagan's term was warmly welcomed by Sharon and his successor Olmert. These operations included assassinating Mughniyah, bombing an alleged chemical weapons factory in Syria and killing dozens of Syrian and Iranian experts, and providing intelligence that facilitated the bombing of a research station in northeast Syria that Israel claims was a Syrian nuclear reactor built by experts from North Korea. Briegman says that during Dagan's term, Mossad killed Ramzi Nehareh, a merchant connected to Hizbullah, Ghalib Awaleh, an activist in Hizbullah's military wing, Ali Hussein Saleh, a driver for the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, Abu Hamza, leader of the Islamic Jihad in southern Lebanon, and others.
All the journalists who have written on Mossad under Dagan have told how taken Olmert is with the list of operations executed by Mossad. These journalists report that Dagan goes to Olmert's office every Thursday carrying a list of operations he wants Olmert to approve, and that Olmert approves all of Dagan's proposals. There is consensus in Israel that Dagan is currently the most influential personality among decision-makers in Tel Aviv, and that due to his achievements, Olmert has twice insisted that his term as head of Mossad be extended.
It's ironic and inexplicable that as the world rushes to label Arab and Palestinian liberation movements as terrorists, it overlooks the fact that Israel has produced terrorists much more sadistic and criminal. Moreover, the excessive killing of innocents has become a standard for promoting military figures and granting them additional responsibilities.
Israel is hampering agreements on a prisoner exchange with Hamas that aim to free captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on the pretext that it can't agree to free Palestinian prisoners who killed occupation soldiers and settlers. Meanwhile, it celebrates those who excel in cutting off Arab heads.