Although watching a young Danish tourist getting whacked in the face by an M16 rifle is certainly not a pleasant site and tends to make one cringe, viewing the slightly extended video of the incident simply made my blood boil. For rather than being engaged in the normal activities that soldiers are engaged in, Lieutenant Colonel Shalom Eisner and his comrades had to deal with what appeared to be an obviously planned provocation: crowds of people all around, large signs saying “Stop Ethnic Cleansing”, flashing cameras everywhere and sneering cyclists refusing to disperse. Thus, it came as no surprise that when one of these “innocent” young chaps decided to bump into a soldier with his bicycle and initiate the whole fracas; a very good soldier fell for the trap.
The whole incident is sickening for several reasons. For starters, these people take advantage of the fact that only in Israel – not in America, not in a European country, and certainly not in an Arab country – can they get away with such nonsense. They know this and they flaunt it in our face. However, much more infuriating is the fact that we even let such people into our country in the first place. Do we not have any self-respect? And on top of this, rather than having the police – who are trained for such encounters – deal with the whole mess, we foolishly dump it on our soldiers. However the most irritating part of it all, especially in light of the above, is how several of our illustrious political and military leaders were so quick to condemn Shalom Eisner. One can only wonder in cynicism if these same people, as well as the others who quickly denounced Eisner, lifted a voice in protest or shed a tear when viewing the events in Amona a few years back, a particularly gory affair that in comparison made the recent event look like a Lassie episode.
Putting the anger and frustration aside, for anyone who is interested in fighting for the truth in a world that has seemingly gone mad, there are some very important lessons that can be learned from the event. The first is to be aware of the age we live in, namely a highly technological era where any amateur can film an event and potentially broadcast it to thousands or millions via You Tube, Facebook, or the like. This simply cannot be ignored. Thus Shalom Eisner’s statement after the event that for a soldier it’s more important to complete his mission than to worry about how he looks while performing it, although true in a perfect world, is unfortunately naïve given the current reality.
As a result, for anyone who is sick of the lies and hypocrisy, be it in Israel or the world, and really wants to work for change, it’s not enough to simply stand on the street corner and shout the truth. How something is said or how someone looks while performing an act frequently has more impact than anything else in the eyes or ears of the viewer. In this realm we need to learn from some of our leaders. Although many of them appear to be nauseatingly concerned about the reaction of the world, not just in the current Eisner affair but in many previous incidents as well, they do have a healthy appreciation of the power of images and statements in shaping public opinion (even if they are frequently inept in their own attempts). This truth needs to be internalized and the technological means at our disposal need to be more effectively utilized.
The second lesson is that being involved is not enough. In other words, although the army is full of many idealistic, highly motivated soldiers, the real power in the IDF is in the hands of those who are influenced by the same western-liberal values that are prevalent in other areas of Israeli society. Thus it makes no difference that most Israelis would want someone like a Shalom Eisner with them if they headed into battle, especially after his heroics in recovering a dead body from a tank in the Second Lebanon War. In today’s reality, Lieutenant Colonel Shalom Eisner was pronounced guilty by the head of the IDF the moment the very brief video hit You Tube.
Similarly in the political realm, despite the presence in the Likud of more and more nationalistic and idealistic MKs, not only have they been unable to cause a real change of direction by the party, but they have been powerless in preventing Binyamin Netanyahu from pulling the Likud towards the left during his second stint as Prime Minister. For example, during his 3-year tenure there was a housing freeze in Judea and Samaria, a declaration of support by a Likud Prime Minister for the creation of a Palestinian State in Judea and Samaria, and the placement of the powerful and influential defense ministry in the hands of a very unpopular and anti-settlement politician.