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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Does this man represent you?

Before and during the disengagement from Gaza, one of the recurring tropes heard from the the center/left of the Israeli electorate was that the settlers were acting violently and against the laws and interests of the country... therefore they deserved whatever violence came their way from the uniformed representatives of the state (i.e. IDF, Border Patrol and Police).

Through the lens of time I think that most reasonable people would have to agree that the actual number of people who acted violently against the laws, interests and representatives of the country were such a tiny percentage of the disengagement's opponents as to be statistically insignificant... and certainly not representative of the mainstream center/right. 

This is not to minimize the serious nature of any violent acts, but rather to make sure we're all on the same page about whether such actions were a right-wing trend and/or in any way representative of the way the settlers and their supporter comported themselves before and during disengagement.

In short, while the acts of a violent, misguided few should certainly have been universally criticized and renounced, one would have to admit that it was terribly unfair of the mainstream center/left (i.e. Labor voters) to condemn the anti-disengagement movement as if they had condoned and even supported such actions... or for anyone in a democracy to suggest that anyone "deserved what they got" (including blatant brutality).

Fast forward a couple of years to, well, yesterday, and see how things look in the mirror.

Yesterday a group of extreme left wing activists took it upon themselves to try to dismantle an IDF roadblock at the entrance to an Arab village called Semo'a in the South Hevron hills.  They have attempted (unsuccessfully) to dismantle other IDF roadblocks in the past few weeks, but in this case the army got wind of their plans in time to completely head them off, and sent a group of [mostly] reserve soldiers to confront them.

At some point, as the soldiers attempted to disperse the activists, the confrontation turned violent and pushing turned to exchanging blows... and even a few well-documented jabs with rifle butts and barrels.

It is important to point out that, just as with some of the extreme right wing elements in Israel, there are those on the extreme left with a well-documented history of fomenting violent confrontation with the police and army.  Not only that, unlike their right wing counterparts, those on the extreme left are quite media-savvy and made sure to invite plenty of press to the site to provide coverage of their actions and any subsequent confrontation.

Some like to call these extremists 'anarchists', but in fact, that is an unfairly oversimplified characterization that seems (IMHO) intended to distance the bad actors from some of the more focused extreme left wing agendas.

Anyhoo, back to yesterday's action.  We now had a situation where a security roadblock that was put in place by the IDF under direct orders from the Defense Minister was being dismantled by a group of people who felt they were not obligated to obey the lawful orders of the government's representatives to leave what had been declared a closed military zone. 

Instead they refused to stop their illegal actions, thereby forcing a physical confrontation with the soldiers. 

Thanks to the extensive media presence on site, much of the confrontation was captured on film.  As I mentioned earlier, in order to carry out their orders to stop the activists from removing the roadblock and force them to leave the area, the soldiers had no choice but to physically engage the crowd... and in some cases it appears that some of the soldiers may have used excessive physical force to do this.

Now, in a democracy... especially one with a healthy media... one would expect the government to open an investigation into the incident... review the testimony of the soldiers and their officers... view the media coverage and interview journalists on the scene... and in the end release their findings along with some assignation of blame, and perhaps level charges against some of the participants on one or both sides.

And then there would be Amir Peretz's way. 

Instead of following the logical course of action I've outlined above, the Defense Minister immediately made statements to the press that the soldiers had used excessive force, and criticized them for clashing with the left wing activists.

This is the head of the Israeli military chain of command, mind you, taking sides with lawbreakers who forced a confrontation with soldiers who were following his legal orders, without any investigation or inquiry whatsoever!

Where are the statements from the disengagement era center/left that "acting violently and against the laws and interests of the country make one deserving of whatever violence comes their way from the uniformed representatives of the state"?   Even the veritable pogrom at Amona was defended with that flawed logic by the center left... so what changed yesterday?

What changed is that the activists were ostensibly acting on behalf of the Arab residents of Semo'a... a nice lefty cause... apparently a fact that made Peretz (the head of the largest left wing faction) forget for a moment that since he is Defense Minister, the soldiers were actually acting on his orders.

So here it is... I'm a big man.  I can honestly say without reservation that these extreme left wing activists are in no way representative of the mainstream Israeli center/left, and should in no way be allowed to tarnish the mainstream social and political agendas of the left. 

So why is there this deafening silence from that segment of the political spectrum about yesterday's events?  Why is nobody from the mainstream left criticizing those who acted violently against the interests and representatives of the state?  Why is there no criticism of a defense minister who would rather abandon his men in the field than actually open an organized investigation of the events?

I leave you to draw your own conclusions.


Posted by David Bogner on May 10, 2007 | Permalink


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My guess… Political ‘Black holes’ in the Israeli Government.

Posted by: Rami | May 10, 2007 1:40:44 PM

The silence from the center left is deafening but not surprising. That being said, I believe that there's a great sense of resignation among Israelies given the government's failures exposed by the findings of the Winograd Commission. The people are tired and this is just another case of failed leadership in a long list of others. Not withstanding the silence, failure and apathy, Peretz again showed his true colors and where his loyalties lie. If the head is infected the rest of the body soon decays.

Posted by: Allan | May 10, 2007 4:29:34 PM

Hear, hear.

Posted by: matlabfreak | May 10, 2007 6:46:31 PM

Thank you for the nice post.

Posted by: Kim | May 10, 2007 7:32:42 PM

How do you say "hypocrisy" in Hebrew?

Posted by: psachya | May 10, 2007 9:51:18 PM

Great post. I didn't even spot that item on the news, so thanks for drawing my attention to it.
BTW can we vote for you as defence minister (or perhaps just minister of being sensible) instead of the current team we have?

Posted by: David Sedley | May 11, 2007 9:02:01 AM


I must say that your voice is an important one in representing that of the settlers. It has become impossible for intelligent Americans to support the right wing here. From an early age, it became clear to me that the Middle East would likely remain a place of conflict in my lifetime in spite of the Carter's historic treaty. You have chosen a life in the center of that conflict and a voice of reason as well. It's valuable to hear what life is like in your community.

I am a hopeless optimist. I wish the best for you, your family, and your neighbors.

Posted by: christopher | May 11, 2007 9:43:23 AM

As usual, what preceded the violent response of the officers was completely ignored. I was in a similar situation several years ago in Bethlehem. A group of leftists lead by Uri Avneri was trying to link up to Palestinian leftists, all of whom were northern Europeans BTW, against the instructions of the army. We (the soldiers) formed a physical barrier. When the demonstrators on the Israeli side couldn't get through us, the ones on the other side came to us. These Norwiegians and Germans were accusing us of behaving like Nazis. I told one of the Germans that she, as the offspring of those who murdered one quarter of my family should be the last one to make such an accusation. I can imagine that the leftists from yesterday provoked the soldiers in a similar and even more insulting way. They should be arrested and jailed for breaking the law, just like settlers were arrested and jailed before the pullout from Gaza.

Posted by: Avner | May 11, 2007 9:57:57 AM

oy...these fine shmekkers are going to get us killed...great post...shabbat shalom

Posted by: marallyn | May 11, 2007 10:23:56 AM

David: In case you didn't see it, thought you'd appreciate this piece by Uri Orbach on the incident:



Posted by: matlabfreak | May 13, 2007 5:53:57 AM

Rami... That sounds cryptic. Care to explain?

Allan... While I am not surprised by Peretz's behavior, I am still a bit taken aback at the center/left not seeing through him on any kind of a large scale.

matlabfreak... Are you calling some sort of meeting to order? ;-)

Kim... My pleasure.

psachya... L.A.B.O.R.

David Sedley... Thanks but no thanks. I'm much better as an armchair politician, thankyouverymuch. Besides, the days when a dati/traditional guy could get picked for one of the top spots died along with Begin.

christopher... The funny thing is that I don't think anyone speaks for the settlers these days. The settler agenda is so splintered... which is one of the reasons we have so little political clout.

Avner... You showed more self-control than I would have.

marallyn... Thanks. Shavuah Tov.

matlabfreak... Perfect! Thanks.

Posted by: treppenwitz | May 13, 2007 6:03:05 PM

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