Richard Silverstein: IDF Recruits Congolese to Enforce Occupation, Do Israel’s Dirty Work

Not to be outdone by Muammar Qaddafi’s mercenary African army, the IDF too recruits Africans to put the screws to West Bank Palestinians.  Two Congolese twins enlisted in the IDF and were assigned to the Kfir brigade, whose mission is to patrol the West Bank.  Kfir is known as one of the most brutal of IDF units because it operates the checkpoints, performs the late night searches, and generally does the dirtiest work of Occupation.

Yisrael HaYom, Israel’s right-wing daily funded by Sheldon Adelson, proudly profiled the military induction ceremony at the Western Wall for Regis and Jess Mkomo, 21 year-old twins who are Congolese refugees.  Their mother of course is extraordinarily proud of them, saying that they were babies of 4 years when they arrived in Israel and that the country had turned them into ‘real men.’  Men with guns that is.  Which they will undoubtedly use as all the other members of their brigade do to harass Palestinians under Occupation.

She continues: It does me good to see that the nation believes in them and relies on them and gives them a chance.  It’s also a great honor to the [Congolese] community as this is the first time anyone has [been allowed to] enlist.  This is a good example how the children of foreign workers and refugees can contribute a lot to the nation.

Regis also talks proudly of this opportunity to serve his adopted country: I am on the way to becoming a soldier and I will fight on behalf of the nation.  I don’t feel different either in the army or in terms of my citizenship.  Israel is my home.  I lived here all my life.

His brother Jess says that he knew almost all his life that he wanted to be a combat solider so he could “defend the nation and defend his mother.”  One of the leaders of the Israeli Congolese community notes that:

African refugees generally have a negative connotation within Israel, but that this proves that we have a good side and a desire to contribute to the State of Israel.  This is a great honor for us.

I wonder whether after beating a Palestinian boy, or speaking harshly to a Palestinian grandmother any hint of the savage irony of their situation will creep into their consciousness.  These boys were plucked from the chaos of the Congo and brought to a different and better life in Israel.  All well and good.  But what does the State do to them (an enterprise they participate in gratefully)?  It turns them into the same sort of brutal soldiers who forced their family into exile in the Congo in the first place.  All of which proves that Israel itself, a nation born at least partly out of the suffering of the Holocaust, can lose its bearings and sense of historical irony.

I only hope that the Mkomo twins will remember this verse from Exodus in the course of their military service while policing the West Bank:

Remember the stranger, for you too were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Palestinians are today’s Israelites, the stranger seeking justice and freedom after decades of bondage under Occupation. It is a terrible irony that boys who themselves were refugees less than two decades ago will now be enforcing Israel’s will against another degraded people. What have we done?

Tikun Olam-תקון עולם: Make the World a Better Place – Essays on politics, culture and ideas about Israeli-Arab peace and world music



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