Only in Israel could someone take a beautiful natural specimen, the butterfly, and turn it into a lethal agent on behalf of the State. Channel 2 News reports (Hebrew) that renowned Israeli weapons designer, Dubi Benyamini has designed a mechanical butterfly that can be used to infiltrate a target like a home, car or any outside location in order to kill a victim targeted for assassination by Israeli intelligence or the IDF. You might call it a “butterfly drone” (Channel 2 calls it the “butterfly of death” though the inventor calls it more prosaically, the “X-wing”) and add it to the arsenal of death possessed by Israel and the U.S. and used in counter-terror attacks in the Middle East. Of course, the drone can also photograph and video any subject it “sees” and can be used for “close-in” surveillance of subjects. It can be powered by solar energy absorbed in its wings in the course of flight. I suppose if you were a weapons designer you might find it a thing of beauty. But certainly, dark beauty.
The irony: Benyamini has, since the age of 9 (he’s 70 now) had a deep love for butterflies. In fact, he’s know as Israel’s “Mr. Butterfly,” and has written learned tomes on the subject. He’s traveled around the world searching out and naming scores of new butterfly species. The lilting classical music accompanying this news report and the inventor’s proud smile indicate his loving attention to the subject of his hobby and his newly developed weapon. It’s downright eerie to know that this same lovely flying contraption might wreak death on Israel’s enemies.
After enumerating the non-lethal qualities of the drone, the reporter asks whether the drone can “kill.” The inventor answers with a proud smile: “By invitation. Whatever you ask of it, it will do.” With that, the contraption circles around its “father’s” head and all break out into peal of delighted laughter as the classical music plays on.
So why would a man abuse a species he loves so well to turn it into a killing machine? How does he create such a schizoid division between the subjects of his hobby and use of their principles to kill? A question the reporter notes he asked Binyamini, who would not or could not provide an answer.
Frankly, if given the choice between a lepidopterist like Nabokov, who incorporated his knowledge in masterworks of literature; or Benyamini, who yokes his hobby to weapons design, I’d prefer the former.
This article first appeared in Tikun Olam