"In blood and sweat/A race will arise to us/Proud and generous and brutal"... Thus wrote Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky, the founder of extreme right-wing Zionism, who was also a writer and a poet. Present-day Likud leaders see him as their forefather, much as Stalin saw Karl Marx.
The world "brutal" stands out, because it seems implausible that Jabotinsky really meant it. His Hebrew was not very good, and he probably meant something like "hard" or "tough."
If Jabotinsky saw today's Likud, he would shudder. His was a 19th century mixture of extreme nationalism, liberalism and humanism.
Paradoxically, brutality is the only one of the three traits that is prominent in our life today, especially in the occupied Palestinian territories. There is nothing there to be proud of, and generosity is something associated with the despised leftists.
THE ROUTINE, everyday brutality that governs the occupied territories was caught on video this week. A searing flash in the darkness.
It happened on Route 90, a highway that connects Jericho with Beth She'an along the Jordan River. It is the main road of the Jordan valley, which our government aims to annex to Israel one way or another. It is reserved solely for Israeli traffic and closed to Palestinians.
(There is a Palestinian joke about this. During the post-Oslo negotiations, the Israeli team insisted on retaining this road. The Palestinian chief negotiator turned to his colleagues and exclaimed: "What the hell, if we have got 89 other roads, why insist on this one?")
A group of young international pro-Palestinian activists decided to demonstrate against the closure of the road. They invited their Palestinian friends to a jolly bicycle ride along it. They were stopped by a unit of the Israeli army. For some minutes they faced each other: the cyclists, some with Arab keffiyehs (headdresses) draping their shoulders, and the soldiers with their rifles.
The drill in such a situation is for the army to call the police, who are trained for this job and who have the means for non-lethal crowd dispersal. But the commander of the army unit decided otherwise.
What happened then was shown on a video clip taken by one of the protesters. It is clear, unambiguous and unequivocal.
The officer, a lieutenant-colonel, is standing opposite a fair-haired young man, a Dane, who was just looking on, neither saying nor doing anything. Nearby, protesters and soldiers are standing around. No sign of violence anywhere.
Suddenly the officer raises his rifle, holding it horizontally, one hand on the butt and one on the barrel, and then he drives the squared-off end of the magazine hard into the young Dane's face. The victim falls backward on the ground. The officer grins with satisfaction.
IN THE evening, Israeli TV showed the clip. By now, almost every Israeli has seen it a hundred of times. The more one sees it, the more one is shocked. The sheer brutality of this completely unprovoked act makes one flinch.
To veterans of demonstrations in the occupied territories, there is nothing new in this incident. Many have suffered brutality in many different forms.
What was unusual in this case was that it was caught on camera. And not a hidden camera. There were quite a lot of cameras around. Not only those of the protesters, but those of army photographers, too.
The officer must have been aware of this. He just did not give a damn.