Are there any IDF crimes which the public won’t defend?

The Israeli public automatically supports anything done by its military forces. Even abuse by dogs.

Our brave gunmen deployed yesterday (Friday) an unusual weapon in their battle against the Palestinian popular resistance: an attack dog. The IDF canine unit – apparently there is one – sicced a dog on the protesters in Kufr Qaddoum, and it was caught on camera. When Morad Shtawi came to the aid of the wounded protester, he was thrown to the ground, pepper-sprayed and handcuffed.

There is something particularly horrible about the use of an animal against another human being. In the worst case, it reminds you of the arenas in ancient Roman cities; in less worse ones, of Bull Connor and the Alabama police attacking Martin Luther King’s marchers. This won’t surprise many, but judging by the comments in Haaretz (Hebrew), in one of which the commenter is worried lest the dog become “Arabified”, the public stands almost unanimously behind the gunmen. The IDF Spokesman’s comment (“during a violent and iillegal disturbance of order…”) was exceptionally ludicrous, particularly when you remember what “the law in these parts” means in the West Bank.

The gunmen have a large anti-demonstrator arsenal. One of these weapons is the so-called rubber bullet, which is in fact a metal bullet encased in thin rubber. An Israeli demonstrator was shot in the head by one of these in Nabi Saleh yesterday. The ordinary Israeli would claim there is a direct connection between violence by the gunmen and violence by the protesters. They fail to supply the evidence in the case of the dog attack – they need to prove that it attacked the right person, not a random demonstrator. In the Nabi Saleh case, the attack is certainly not accidental. Headshots very rarely are. They are premeditated. The problem is, the IDF has no incentive to prove its innocence. It couldn’t care less about its international image and its home crowd couldn’t care less, and hasn’t in a decade or more.

That wasn’t always the case. During the First Intifada, there was a major scandal when the IDF gunmen were videoed burying some protesters alive. The gunmen of the Givati brigade who beat handcuffed protesters to death went on one trial after another. Colonel Yehuda Meir, who could justly claim to have carried out the unwritten orders of the saint-to-be Yizhak Rabin, “to break the bones” of the protesters (Anti-Rabin cultists greatly resent being reminded of this), was demoted to private and kicked out of the IDF for ordering such torture. The majority preferred to turn a blind eye even then, but a significant part of the public still demanded an end to the brutalization.

Can it be done? Can you actually maintain an “enlightened occupation,” as we used to call it? Metaphorically, it was handcuffing a person – but making sure the handcuffs didn’t chafe his skin, and that they were in front of him, and not behind, and telling yourself this is the best which can be done. It was a lie: the torture chambers of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Beth) were occupied around the clock even before 1987. One of the reasons the “Shin Beth affair,” in which ISA officers murdered two captive Palestinians, ended with a pre-trial pardon was that some of the persons involved threatened to “open their mouths” and tell all they knew about how the ISA actually acted. They were certainly not the last to use this threat. In those days, the concept of an “enlightened occupation” was much derided by the radical left of the time as hypocritical, collaboration with the occupation.

It certainly was. But now we learn that the thin shell of hypocrisy is essential to civilization, and once it breaks, all we are left with is naked violence, always justified by its own existence. We have unleashed the beast, and that is basically all we are left with: Spartans who adamantly defend the actions of their secret police against the Helots, and who keep declaring war on them every year, to keep the atrocities nice and legal. We are left with people who fight endlessly and who justify every abomination – believing they are speaking on behalf of the comradeship of soldiers, and in fact fighting for the privileges of a small elite.