Reality check: Hebron killing was not a one-off event

This government thrives on the creation of external enemies in order to unify the country, because it has no vision to offer of a better future.

March 27, 2016 20:43
4 minute read.
IDF West Bank

IDF soldier at West Bank checkpoint at Gush Etzion Junction.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The killing of Palestinian terrorists, after they have been subdued, is regarded with a shrug of the shoulders The IDF soldier who shot and killed the totally incapacitated Abdel Fattah al-Sharif last week in Hebron was, by all accounts, acting on his own initiative. As IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Moti Almoz said hours after the event: “This is not the IDF, these are not the values of the IDF and these are not the values of the Jewish people.”

Really? One would have to be both deaf and blind not have noticed an atmosphere in Israel in which the killing of Palestinian terrorists, after they have been subdued, is regarded with a shrug of the shoulders.

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Take the example of Bashar Masalha, the terrorist who murdered American tourist Taylor Force and wounded 10 others in Jaffa earlier this month.

After Masalha had been subdued and was lying on the ground, posing no further threat to anyone, a police volunteer allegedly shot him in the head and killed him. Just as in the case of the soldier in Hebron, there is video footage of the wounded terrorist being shot, including shouts from bystanders calling on the police volunteer to “give it to him in the head, don’t be afraid, give it to him in the head.”

So far the Justice Ministry has yet to open an investigation into the killing. Nor have there been any condemnations of this extra-judicial execution, either from Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich or Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan.

And then of the course there is the incident of the two teenage Palestinian girls in Jerusalem, who went on a stabbing spree with a pair of scissors, resulting in one of them being killed after being “neutralized” and other critically wounded by security officials who rushed to the scene.

Soon after, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot had the temerity to tell high-school pupils that such actions did not meet with his stamp of approval: “The IDF doesn’t need to get swept up in clichéd statements like ‘kill or be killed’ or ‘Whoever comes at you with scissors needs to be killed.’” “The tools that are at the soldiers’ disposal are sufficient,” the chief of staff said.

“I don’t want to see a soldier empty a magazine [to shoot] a young girl with scissors.”

INSTEAD OF being applauded for this morally correct stance, the IDF chief of staff came under a barrage of criticism, from government ministers such as Yisrael Katz, who insisted on his Facebook page that “the codes of conduct and limitations are clear, but terrorists who attack Jews should not get out alive,” and some of the country’s leading rabbis.

The noted anti-terrorism expert Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef told his followers in weekly Torah lesson: “If a terrorist is advancing with a knife, it’s a mitzva to kill him. One shouldn’t be afraid that someone will petition the High Court of Justice or some chief of staff will come and say something different.”

Importantly, Yosef did note that an attacker who no longer poses a threat should not be killed, saying the Messiah was the only arbiter who could sentence a non-threatening enemy to death. Other rabbis, however, are less prepared to wait for the Messiah. Last October, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, municipal chief rabbi of Safed, called for terrorist attackers to be killed at the scene of the attack. “The fact that there are terrorists that are still coming out alive after committing terrorist acts means that we haven’t understood that we’re in a war, and we need to destroy these enemies,” he declared.

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon did come to Eisenkot’s defense, the two men have failed to ensure that the mood in Israel remains calm and rational in the face of this current wave of Palestinian terrorism. In fact, in their hounding of human rights groups such as B’tselem, one of whose activists filmed the killing in Hebron, or Breaking the Silence, which highlights IDF abuses in the territories, they are helping create today’s Orwellian environment in which Jews are good, Arabs are bad, and those who seek to empathize with the Other are nothing more than traitors.

This government thrives on the creation of external enemies in order to unify the country, because it has no vision to offer of a better future. Real leadership would explain that while Palestinian terrorism poses a danger to individual Israeli citizens, it is not an existential threat to the country, and there can be a diplomatic solution. Our current government, however, prefers a permanent state of apocalypse now, and in such a state, no one has the right to be surprised when incidents such as those in Hebron happen.

The writer is a former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.

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