Sunday, October 28, 2007

Postmodern? Try 1948

Haaretz has a story/interview with some arrogant Army bloke (*) named Shimon Naveh - Dr. Naveh, or, how I learned to stop worrying and walk through walls

Naveh, it seems, was at the forefront of a new conceptual approach that evolved in the IDF at the end of the Oslo period and the start of the second intifada. Together with other officer-intellectuals, he tried to explicate and develop military activity by drawing, among other sources, on terms borrowed from postmodern French philosophy, literary theory, architecture and psychology. Recently he completed a book on his experience as head of the IDF's Operational Theory Research Institute (OTRI), or MALTAM in its Hebrew acronym.

Can Naveh explain his conceptual doctrine in a way the public will understand? He is not optimistic. "It is not easy to understand; my writing is not intended for ordinary mortals," he says in an interview in his home in Hadera.

Questions that irk him get a furious response, and mention of the names of most of the top IDF brass generates something resembling an attack of Tourette's syndrome and a torrent of rage, verbal abuse and death sentences for some of them. "They should be executed," he asserts. The interviewer's look of astonishment does not faze him. "As you see, I shit on most of them, and I don't give a damn," he says. Earlier, when his dog greeted him as he entered the house he said exultantly, "See him? He is smarter than most of the people on the General Staff."

The following is excerpted from an interview Brigadier General Kochavi gave to the architect and researcher Eyal Weizman (who devotes a chapter to Naveh in his new - English-language - book, "Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation"):

"This space that you look at, this room that you look at, is nothing but your interpretation of it. Now, you can stretch the boundaries of your interpretation, but not in an unlimited fashion, after all, it must be bound by physics, as it contains buildings and alleys. The question is, how do you interpret the alley? Do you interpret the alley as a place, like every architect and every town planner does, to walk through, or do you interpret the alley as a place forbidden to walk through? This depends only on interpretation. We interpreted the alley as a place forbidden to walk through, and the door as a place forbidden to pass through, and the window as a place forbidden to look through, because a weapon awaits us in the alley, and a booby trap awaits us behind the doors. This is because the enemy interprets space in a traditional, classical manner, and I do not want to obey this interpretation and fall into his traps. Not only do I not want to fall into his traps, I want to surprise him! This is the essence of war. I need to win. I need to emerge from an unexpected place ... This is why we opted for the methodology of moving through walls ... Like a worm that eats its way forward, emerging at points and then disappearing." (From Eyal Weizman, "Lethal Theory," in English)

But in April 1948, under the command of Gidi Paglin, the Irgun, at first thwarted in its operation against Jaffa, proceeded on its third try to dynamite their way through the houses and move through the walls to the sea and cut-off Jaffa from the rear, thus destroying the resistance. It was successful.

Naveh, grow up.



Naveh left the army in 2005, following a harsh report by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss on OTRI. The report was critical of the fact that all of the institute's work was carried out orally, without the ideas being put into writing. Allegations in the report about administrative irregularities were later refuted.

"I will take apart this critique in seconds," Naveh says jocularly. "It is the critique of an idiot. He comes to examine a certain field and doesn't bother to learn about it, doesn't take the trouble to read a word about the operational art, about what it means, about our status in the world. I tell him, go to blazes, you're an idiot, you don't understand a thing. In the same breath he checks how we report on work hours and what is going on with the administrative side, allegations that were all refuted."

Did you defend yourselves?

"The subject under review is supposed to respond to the first draft of the comptroller's report, and then he takes it to the deputy chief of staff. In our case, even before we managed to respond to the draft, [Deputy Chief of Staff Moshe] Kaplinsky, that idiot, started to get on our case. He should have come out and said he wanted to destroy us. Kaplinsky said more than once that I had to be got rid of because I couldn't be controlled, and so did that idiot from Northern Command [the former GOC, Udi Adam], a command that is a wretched ruin."

And then you left?

"The examining officer was the deputy chief of the Personnel Directorate, and right away I understood that he wanted to remove us, so I said I wanted to leave. Halutz asked me why, and said 'We will talk about it on Friday.' I said, 'We are not going to meet on Friday.' I got up and left. That chapter is over for me. I won't go back there even if they offer me my weight in gold. Maybe if they offer me $40,000-50,000 a month I'll go back, but that would really be to prostitute myself."

There was other criticism, too. Yaakov Amidror - former commander of the IDF National Defense College - said that your unit's work was tainted by "a non-distinction between truth and lie, prattle in the best postmodern tradition."

"He is a person who has not read a word about postmodernism, a pathological liar, a pretender, a person who did nothing in his life in the army, a total idler, a showoff. He did everything by political manipulations. I do not accept acknowledgment of the worth of my theory from nonentities. That idiot was a student with me at the Command and Staff College and was always a blackboard below me."

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