Zili, a loyal member of the army’s canine unit, took part in the raid by the Police Special Anti-Terror Unit on Ibrahim al-Nabulsi’s home in Jenin and was shot and killed by Palestinian militants. What hasn’t been said about him? That he saved the lives of soldiers, that he was a hero and that the soldiers cried at his funeral.
Several newspapers even ran a picture of his grave, in the special cemetery for military dogs. And in a particularly tasteless gesture, Israel’s Channel News 12 website reported that Prime Minister Yair Lapid eulogized the dog.
“Zili was part of the unit, professional and beloved,” Lapid said. “He’ll be missed by the unit, missed by the dog handlers and fighters he accompanied over and over on operational missions.” Or perhaps this lack of taste should be ascribed to Lapid himself?
With the exception of Haaretz, all of the country’s print and electronic media outlets participated in this display, as far as I can tell.
How did Zili win all these honors, despite being a dog? Perhaps thanks to the fact that he was, to our joy, the only fatality on Israel’s side.
Several dozen people on the other side were killed, some of them innocent civilians, and not all of them by misfired Palestinian Islamic Jihad missiles. Some were killed by our forces. Yet they received less attention, if any.
Does anyone remember the name of the 5-year-old girl who was killed on the first day of Operation Breaking Dawn in the Gaza Strip? Some newspapers reported that a 5-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman were also killed in the assassination of Tayseer al-Jabari, the senior commanding officer of Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s northern Gaza division, but they didn’t give their names.
It’s easy to forget someone who doesn’t have a name, and Israeli society does its best to push the evils it causes off the agenda. Remembering them could oust it from its comfortable position, that of the victim – a position from which, as we know, you’re allowed to do anything.
The girl’s name was Alaa Qaddoum. But who knows that? And what does it matter, anyway?
Overall, the pundits summed up with satisfaction, Israel came out well from every standpoint. It managed to kill terrorists, suffered almost no losses (aside from Zili), and somehow, the world has evidently already gotten used to pictures of destruction from Gaza, even ones with children – some alive and some dead. But this time, the operation was short, and only a few dozen people died.
When the situation is this good, we have leisure and emotional space to celebrate the operation’s success and the terrorists’ assassinations and, of course, to mourn the death of Zili the dog.
I also love animals, and do a lot of work to promote their welfare and rights. I also know there’s nothing like a dog’s love and loyalty to his owners. But turning a dog into a soldier, a comrade and a hero moves Israeli society further down the slippery slope on which it is sliding, to the sound of its own applause.
Let me say what would be self-evident in any normal society: Zili the dog was trained for certain tasks, carried them out at soldiers’ orders and saved lives by his death. He didn’t share any of the ideologies in whose name he was sent. At most, he was an instrument, and that is how we should relate to him. That’s also how the soldiers related to him in battle. Therefore, sorrow, pain and mourning over such an animal doesn’t belong in the media, but in people’s hearts.
And why do Israeli society and many media outlets humanize a dog while forgetting the names of children? Because we’re a blind, upside-down society with no eyes to see and no ears to hear. A society in which animals at our service are raised to the level of human beings, while the lives of our enemies’ children, or even of children who merely live among them, are a kind of price that has to be paid to kill the people we need to kill.
The poet Zelda wrote that every person has a name. But Israeli society, and much of the media, gives honors, names and eulogies to dogs, not to dead Arab children.
By turning a dog into a soldier, a comrade and a hero – Israeli society slides further down the slippery slope.