Boulevard named after Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi
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The army commander back then was Dan Halutz, an air force officer. It is unusual for a “blue” (someone from the air force in Hebrew slang) to reach such a position. Halutz held back the “greens” (ground forces) during the operation because he “didn’t trust them” and sent the air force ahead. It was a disaster. The fact that in the morning of the attack he found time to contact his broker and sell his stock in Tel Aviv Stock Exchange didn’t help his public image. He left the army humiliated. It was time for a major change. Halutz—like his predecessors—was Ashkenazi. In 2007, Minister of Defense Amir Peretz—a Mizrahi Jew—called Gabi Ashkenazi back to the army as general commander.
“Wait a sec… you are mixing up things here!”
While visiting the USA, I was questioned regarding the surname “Ashkenazi.” The person that asked was very surprised when I commented it was a popular name among Moroccan (and other Oriental) Jews. “That can’t be true!” was his answer. As usual, things in the Jewish community are complex and the popularized conceptions are—to say the least—oversimplified. “Ashkenaz” is a name given by Pharisaic-Jews to the area now known as Germany. An “i” added at the end of a noun in Hebrew denotes possession. “Ashkenazi” means “from Germany.” So how come a Moroccan Jew is called Ashkenazi?
In fact, it will be very hard to find a German Jew named Ashkenazi. The best way of illustrating this is taking the issue into neutral grounds. Imagine a Canadian family moving to Honduras and settling down there. It wouldn’t take long before some neighbor would refer to them just as the “Canadians.” In some cases, this nickname would stick. In the case of Moroccan Jews the name is related to the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492. Some of them moved northwards, and settled down all over northern Europe, including “Ashkenaz.” Some of them failed to settle down, and moved back south, toward the warm Mediterranean sun. Spain was closed, thus they moved to the nearest country, where modern Morocco is. They were “Germans” among “Moroccans,” i.e. “Ashkenazis.” The same is true in all settlements of Oriental Jews.
Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi’s father was a Bulgarian Jew (most consider this community closer to Oriental than to Western Jewish practices) and his mother was a Syrian Jew. With such a background, he is considered an Oriental Jew in Israel.
Discrimination characterizes all Jewish communities. “Spharad” means “Spain” in Hebrew. “Sephardic Jews” means “Spaniard Jews.” In Israel the use of the term regarding Moroccan, Libyan and other Oriental Jewish communities may be heard, but it is wrong. The term “Mizrahi” (“z” like in “zen,” “h” like “ch” in “loch”) means “Oriental” in Hebrew and is the preferred term for Jews from the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern areas.
There are nuances also in the use of these terms. Yitzhak Navon, the fifth president of the State of Israel (1978-1983), became the first Sephardic Jew to be nominated to a leading position (though in Israel the president holds just an honorific job). Instead of attempting to advance the position of Mizrahi Jews in the Israeli society, he kept saying—ad nauseum—that he was a “Sameh-Tet.” This is the abbreviation for “Pure-Sephardic,” (Sepharadi-Tahor) meaning that he was a descendant of Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 without any blood from Mizrahi Jews. The victim of discrimination became an ugly racist himself. In an attempt to upgrade himself (as per his racist views), he married an Ashkenazi woman. Thus Mizrahi is kept as a general denominator, while Sephardic has a certain aristocratic aura to it. However, in General Ashkenazi’s case, Ashkenazi is a Mizrahi name.
Back to General Terror
Is this a happy end story? Hollywood regurgitated in a Middle Eastern army? Did General Ashkenazi become a brave hero bringing honor to his community after having defeated evil single-handed? Not quite so. The now Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi became a violent beast, he needed to prove himself better than the surrounding Ashkenazim.
“Wait a sec… you are mixing up things again!”
“For exactly 40 years I wore my IDF uniform with pride. ... I am proud of my service. ... It pains me that during my mission as Chief of General Staff I got caught up, not to my benefit, in an unprecedented attack,” Ashkenazi said. It is unclear if he was referring to the Harpaz Document Affair, or to his terrorist attack on Gaza.
Banality of Evil
The banality of evil: evil acts are often perpetrated by “mild-mannered individuals who believe that business is business.” The banality of evil: mild acts aimed at commemorating true evil. Inaugurating a street named after the general that allowed the assassination of grannies, mothers and children (Hebrew report) by cowardly snipers hidden in the distance. The banality of evil: in-office manipulation for the promotion of an accomplice in the crimes. General Ashkenazi, not even by Israeli standards are you an honorable man.
Yet, you are being oddly honored. Few get a street named after them while still breathing. By doing do, the Israeli society has a message for the world. It is proclaiming that it shares your values, and as such it has rightfully acquired the UN ruling as a “terror inflicting society.”
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