A few days ago IDF Commander in chief told a group of high school students that he didn't like a soldier emptying his magazine against a 13 year old girl with a pair of scissors."

 
The storm was quick in coming. Rightists, accused him of disarming Israel's capacity to defend itself. The general's defenders included the Minister of Defense, who is also a past commander in chief of the IDF. The Prime Minister has been silent.
 
A reasonable interpretation is that a soldier or police officer needn't use all the bullets against a child, even though she was attacking him. Enough to do what is necessary to put her down, or at least to stop her. If a shot killed the attacker, that would be understandable. Soldiers and police have to defend themselves and others. 
 
Part of the same view is that the general was expressing the ambivalence of Jews toward killing. The Talmud urges getting up early to kill the person intent in killing.
 הקם להורגך השכם להורגו
The expression justifies self defense, and has an honored place in Judaic law and tradition. However, one needn't like to kill, and may regret it if necessary.


One of the general's critics suggested that his comment may have contributed to the incentives of two young Palestinians to kill a shopper in the West Bank.


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This attack--the 32nd Israeli fatality in four months of violence--occurred at a West Bank supermarket where Israelis and Palestinians work and shop together, usually in peace. The killers were two 14 year olds, one of whom was killed by an armed civilian and the other injured. The IDF and Shin Bet are considering closing West Bank shopping centers to Palestinians. Others are sensitive to the charge of Apartheid, and are urging increased security. We're already used to lining up and going through security gates at just about every public venue. Boredom and inattention are problems. That may change, at least for a while, and at least in the West Bank.


At about the same time, Prime Minister Netanyahu was losing a gambit. The patron of Sheldon Adelson, billionaire thanks to gambling, could not persuade enough of his coalition partners to endorse the opening of casinos in Eilat. Even suggesting that they'd be closed to Israelis, and milking only foreign visitors, was not enough of a concession. Bibi claimed that Adelson had no part in his aspiration, but Israelis were doubtful. Opposition came from Jewish Home and the ultra-Orthodox parties. Yair Lapid expressed opposition from outside of the coalition, arguing that casinos would add to prostitution, gangsterism, and the sickness of habitual gambling. A newspaper item claimed that statistical research showed no connection between casinos and crime, but the bet was already lost.


Israel has lots of legal gambling, and no shortage of the illegal stuff. What's permitted, and encouraged via substantial advertizing, are lotteries based on random chance and the outcomes of sport. These are run by the government, with substantial profits going to schools, community centers, and other worthy projects.


The Palestinians had a casino in Jericho, backed by European Jewish investors, that attracted bus loads of Israelis, but that was in the dim past before the second intifada.


Some of Israel's shady characters operated a fleet of gambling boats that left Eilat for non-territorial waters, but that ceased with a series of arrests in 2004.


Bibi;s effort was the most recent attempt to improve the attractions of Israel's vacation city on the Red Sea. Winter temperatures typically reach 20 C (68 F), and attract charter flights from a number of northern European cities.


Proposals to add gambling have come along every few years, but nothing legal has gotten off the ground, or away from the docks.


During the time that legalizing casinos was in the headlines, the parole committee was considering the petition of Eiy Alon, who has already served close to 15 years in prison for emptying the coffers of the bank where she worked. She did it to save her brother from the nastiness of major indebtedness to bad people on account of gambling at overseas casinos, on sport, and just about everything else. 


We also suffer from the ordinary kinds of carnage. Gangsters routinely seek to kill their competitors, family members lose control, and traffic accidents dwarf casualties from Palestinians. The latest tragedy getting headlines is a teenager girl and her boyfriend killing the girl's twin sister. Weekend television broadcast an interview with a social worker who had been involved with the family, which skirted the boundaries of privacy. We also saw a series of whatsapp posts that added to comments from the social worker about high tension among the twins. 


Just as the commentators were beginning to probe the dynamics among that set of twins, the Supreme Court freed a senior police officer by overturning a guilty verdict issued three years ago by a lower court. The officer and his wife had been close friends with a man they knew from high school, but he showed an obsessive yearning for the officer's wife. The couple tried to distance themselves by moving to another neighborhood, but the man kept after her, and eventually threatened the husband with a metal rod before being shot dead. The officer's claim of self defense was rejected by the lower court, but accepted by the Supreme Court.


Overall, Israel ranks among the low scoring countries on murder, along with most of western Europe, and at a bit less than half the rate in the US. But we have our stories, some of them suggesting the possibility of a literary classic.


Comments welcome


-- 
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
[email protected] 
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