In last week’s The Hindu, Arundhati Hazra wrote an article entitled “Kicking it with Krav Maga.” The article writes about this so-called Israeli martial arts form as if it were just an ordinary method of learning self defense. But in reality, like most things Israeli, it is anything but innocuous. Ironically I had just come across a great passage in Max Blumenthal’s terrific new book, Goliath, in which he offers a succinct description of Krav Maga:
Krav Maga, a hyper-aggressive Israeli brans of hand-to-hand combat that focuses on neutralizing an opponent as quickly as possible by targeting the most vulnerable parts of their body–by gouging their eyeballs, smashing their genitals, or “fish hooking” their mouth. The soldier emphasized the importance of breaking out of chokeholds, though not to prevent rapes or street attacks. ‘The scenario was you’re in a shopping mall, there’s a terrorist with a bomb, and he’s grabbing you by the arm or trying to choke you to kill everyone, so this was how we were told we’d get out. And this was part of a larger narrative designed to prepare us to be soldiers by the time we were finished with middle school,” Lia recalled. “The idea wasn’t to make us into good citizens with democratic values–it was all about preparing us to be good soldiers fighting the Palestinians” (181).
Blumenthal is sharing an episode a journalist who grew up Ariel settlement. She’s sharing her experience of how Krav Maga was taught to her and the other colonist youth. It may not be taught precisely that way in Bangalore. However, understanding why this is being exported and its relationship to Israeli hasbara (propaganda) is important.
A couple of years ago Richard Silverstein reported on this phenomenon in the west:
For those of you who see those pictures of IDF soldiers beating Palestinian demonstrators and feel a surge of Jewish pride, then krav maga (literally “contact fighting”) is just for you:
They say many of their students come to Krav Maga not only for self-defense, but also to feel a connection to their family in Israel…
“Everybody feels a connection to the soldiers, whether they are Jewish or not,” Mor said. “Soldiers and their fighting spirit, we really teach fighting spirit here.”
“…I’m not coming from Israel and I’m not Jewish, yet I believe that the army is so strong and so prepared that I’m willing to practice this every day of my life. I love it…”
And we love it too. Someone has to report this use of hasbara to Israel’s Hasbara minister. He’ll undoubtedly want to disseminate news of this brilliant new use of pro-Israel propaganda world-wide, just as he’s touting the co-optation of the European rabbinate on behalf of expounding the joys of Israel to a doubting European public.
Indeed it is quite the hasbara outfit as it does its job of normalizing Israel and people’s relationship to the colonial entity because Indians in Bangalore taking Krav Maga classes will probably say that they’re merely taking a self-defense class. And while that may be the intention, there are deeper and more pernicious elements afloat.