Right-wing protesters show their support for an IDF soldier court martialed for shooting a defenseless Palestinian in Hebron.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
On March 24, another ‘routine’ terrorist attack took place in Hebron in which two Palestinians attacked IDF soldiers, wounding one soldier with a knife. But then the incident took a turn and developed into a media sensation and one of the most controversial events covered in quite some time.
In a video recording of the incident that immediately went viral on the Internet, the soldier from the Kfir Brigade’s Shimshon Battalion is shown cocking his weapon without provocation and shooting in the head the Palestinian terrorist, who had been lying wounded for a few minutes already on the road. This took place a while after the attack and for no apparent reason.
Almost immediately after the incident went viral, Israeli government officials, including the prime minister, began issuing fiery public statements in which they expressed their strong opinions. At the same time, many citizens formed groups and began carrying out their own investigation, presenting their findings, and carrying out mock trials in which they gave down their judgment about the innocence of the said soldier.
People on the right expressed unqualified support of the soldier’s actions and even offered to present him with a medal of honor. Those on the left, however, concluded that the shooting was nothing less than premeditated murder. Both of these extreme “rulings” were made well before the actual facts were investigated. Even the discussion about whether or not the terrorist had been wearing an explosive belt soon became irrelevant. This is not the first time a drumhead court-martial has taken place, and it won’t be the last.
Defense Minister Ya’alon issued an immediate condemnation of the soldier’s actions and later on stated that the soldier had “transgressed the law” and that the IDF had become bestial and that he would not stand for such incidents taking place in the Israeli military.
Prime Minister Netanyahu strongly condemned the soldier and his actions, and only afterward said that the IDF should be allowed to carry out its investigation in a proper manner.
Before the facts were known, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen.Gadi Eisenkot made a statement to the media through the IDF Spokesman in which he said that the IDF does not take responsibility for the soldier’s actions. A number of party leaders hurried to express their positions, some in support of and some against the soldier. MK Avigdor Liberman even went so far as to appear before the Kastina Military Court, during which he expressed his support for the soldier. All of the above actions were taken before the investigation of the incident had taken place.
The IDF needs to carry out a full, in-depth professional investigation of the Kfir Brigade soldier, his commanders and the entire brigade. On the surface, the actions taken by the soldier appear extremely problematic and completely unjustified. It’s completely understandable why the international media has reacted with sensational headlines.
But the real story here is not the attack, or even the soldier killing the terrorist, but the way Israeli society and our politicians have comported themselves following the incident.
When you read the newspaper or watch the evening news, you get the feeling that the entire country has turned into a bunch of beasts, and not just our military.
The truth is that, as bad as the video makes the incident look, none of us really knows what actually happened out there, and what ran through the soldier’s head at the moment of the incident. We cannot know if his actions were carried out with malicious intent, or if the soldier’s actions were instead negligent or reckless.
Nevertheless, many community leaders hurried to issue fiery public statements following the incident. An entire army of extreme right-wing activists formed to protest outside of the military courthouse in an effort to put pressure on the judges and investigators. IDF commanders were quick to extol the values the IDF holds high, and left-wing activists and journalists were quick to point to the incident as evidence of the clear mistreatment behavior of the IDF as an occupying army in Judea and Samaria and proof of the damage caused to soldiers when they serve in the territories.
This incident is just another touchstone of the entire Israeli society and our elected officials.
This is another example of the sharp divisions within our communities and the low level of elected officials who prefer to engage in populism instead of acting with discretion. This is further proof that Israel lacks a true leader, who could succeed in calming the flames and subduing the belligerence. Instead, we’ve turned into a physically and verbally violent nation. We are living in a pressure cooker that is constantly threatening to erupt. Many segments of the population are just waiting for sparks to light their fires of rage and anger.
A civilized country with elected officials should have handled this situation better. The military should have issued a statement saying that it was examining the facts, that it would carry out a thorough investigation and only afterwards would it publicize its decision regarding the fate of the soldier.
The prime minister and all the other public officials should have kept their mouths closed, since it was not their place to voice their opinions on the issue. The military court should have handled the case quietly and honorably in the courthouse instead of in the tabloids and on the street. But in the jungle, everyone behaves like wild animals.
The writer is a former brigadier- general who served as a division head in the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).Translated by Hannah Hochner.