Fundamentally Freund: A slap across Israel's face

The IDF needs to revisit its regulations and ensure that Israeli soldiers are trained to handle such situations without allowing themselves to become punching bags.

December 21, 2017 22:50
3 minute read.
Security forces detain a Palestinian in Nabi Saleh

Security forces detain a Palestinian in Nabi Saleh 370 (R). (photo credit: Mohamad Torokman / Reuters)


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For the past several days, social media have been abuzz over a cringeworthy and infuriating video in which a Palestinian teenager in the village of Nabi Saleh pushes, slaps and kicks two Israeli soldiers, both of whom fail to respond.

Incredibly, despite the clear-cut story which the images tell, some observers have come out in praise of the two men in uniform, as though their passivity in the face of violence was something worthy of approval.

Nothing could be further from the truth and it is imperative that the IDF adjust its policy accordingly.

Restraint is admirable on a personal level, but soldiers in uniform represent more than just themselves. They embody the state and its security. Their task is not to educate young Palestinians about propriety in interpersonal relations, but rather to project power and defend the nation. In that respect, the two sentinels failed at their task, exemplifying weakness and inviting derision.

Yes, the encounter was clearly a provocation aimed at eliciting a harsh response, one that the young Palestinian has reportedly carried out on numerous occasions in the past in a pathetic attempt to win YouTube glory as a victim of the so-called occupation.

And it is true that by displaying indifference, the soldiers who were attacked staved off a shortterm blow to Israel’s image, as they would have undoubtedly been portrayed as the big, bad guys with weapons mistreating a misguided Palestinian teen. But that small victory came at a cost which has potentially inflicted long-term damage on Israel’s security.

After all, consider what lessons other young Palestinians throughout Judea and Samaria took away from the clip: You can berate, curse and even physically assault Israeli soldiers without fear of a response. Better yet, your video can go viral and earn you acclaim on the Palestinian street and at school.

Simply put, that single act of docility on the soldiers’ part is likely to entice other young Palestinians to become copycats and try their hand at provoking soldiers, perhaps even escalating the types of violence and abuse that are employed. Consequently, the soldiers’ behavior will only end up backfiring, as the video of the episode will inspire and incite other assaults on those who protect us.

In this sense, their inaction was precisely the opposite of what is right and moral, for it has set the stage for further incidents.

Nonetheless, some pro-Israel organizations have been promoting the video on the Internet as a way of demonstrating either what Israeli soldiers have to put up with on a daily basis or to underline the duplicitous methods employed by Palestinians to bait Israel by creating provocations for the camera.

There is certainly hasbara value in making these points, but only if the footage is couched in the proper context rather than distributed in its raw format. It would be a mistake to assume, particularly when it comes to the Middle East, that people will connect the dots on their own.

But another point that has been largely overlooked in all the fuss is what the video and especially the reaction to it say about Palestinian society and those who support the Palestinian cause.

As The Jerusalem Post reported on Tuesday, Facebook posts of the video “included comments like, “This girl is the honor of the whole nation.” Hearts, smiley faces, and other emojis supplemented the supportive comments.

Indeed, did any senior Palestinian political, religious or cultural figure come out and criticize the Palestinian teen for attacking Israeli soldiers? If her behavior is a source of embarrassment to Palestinian officials, they have not done much to show it. And that in itself speaks volumes about the chances for making peace with such an adversary.

In the wake of this hullabaloo, the IDF needs to revisit its regulations and ensure that Israeli soldiers are trained to handle such situations without allowing themselves to become punching bags for a bored or irate Palestinian teen.

Anyone who perpetrates such acts should be arrested on the spot and not only once the story broke in the press, as happened in this case. When that Palestinian youth struck an IDF soldier, she slapped all of Israel in the face. Let it at least serve as an important reminder that what the Jewish state needs is not deference but deterrence.

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