We would never presume to second-guess the IDF’s judgment concerning the actions of one of its officers while on duty. But several observations need to be made about the worldwide reaction to that video of IDF Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner’s striking a demonstrator with a rifle butt.
This episode is not just about the reaction of one soldier in a tense situation. It is also about calculated provocations designed to show Israel in the worst possible light, and it is that aspect of the controversy which needs to be addressed.
For one thing, the uproar over the event only underscores that the kind of violence seen on the video was atypical of what has come to be expected from the Israeli military.
For another, the incident occurred next door to the Syrian killing fields, and yet the pro-Palestinian protestors had not a word to say about that, focusing their ire instead on the lone democracy in the region. Why the sympathy for demonstrators who ignore palpable evil but obsess about one side of a long-simmering geopolitical controversy? And would the demonstrators last one minute if they brought their act to any Arab country?
Also, how is it that a reaction to provocation is judged without reference to the provocation? Where is the discussion about the propriety of protesters seeking to force the opening of a blockaded road that is part of a security plan which continues to save Israeli lives? Why is that area not properly considered a war zone with all of the assumed risks that entails?
And does it mean nothing that the object of Lt. Col. Eisner’s anger was a link in a pulsating chain of marchers challenging soldiers whose mission it was to keep them off the security road? What, exactly, were the soldiers supposed to do to stop them? Feed them falafel?
Further, after the Rodney King fiasco twenty years ago, why aren’t more people concerned that the tape may not tell the full story? Shalom Eisner claimed that violence had been visited upon him – and that two of his fingers were broken as a result – just before the videographer/demonstrator started filming. Is that to be dismissed out of hand?
As an Israeli military spokesperson, Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, said, while that while Lt. Col. Eisner may have breached his ethical duties, he was facing “an illegal riot” and that the video being circulated showed a thirty-second edited snippet of a 120-second tape.
While remaining mindful of the strict standards the IDF imposes on its personnel, we need to never lose sight of the goals and methods of anti-Israel fanatics who will stop at nothing to undermine Israeli security and whose fondest dreams are our worst nightmares.