Now for some laughs

April 25, 2012

In News

Violent IDF officer provides snapshot of  Israeli society

Following the disturbances on the  soccer pitch, the league championship action was canceled this weekend. Eisner’s  violence will stop nothing, except for slightly sidetracking his career.

Once in a while, the Israeli occupation provides some instances of comic  relief to break the monotony of desperation. Funny to the point of tears is the  roundish and unkempt figure of Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner, limping on his way for  “medical treatment,” complaining of pains, showing the cameras his bandaged  pinky and his arm hanging from a brace as if it were some serious orthopedic  injury. No less amusing is the claim that demonstrators broke the deputy brigade  commander’s pinky. It’s also amusing to hear one of the settler leaders say the  demonstrators blocked off traffic on the “Dan-Eilat highway.”

It’s funny to hear Eisner admit that it’s possible he “committed a  professional error in judgment, using my weapon in front of the cameras,” and  that his actions were “in order to carry out my duty and to protect my  soldiers.” It’s also funny to hear the director of the IDF’s public relations  branch, Roni Daniel, warn that following this incident, “People will not want to  become officers in the IDF” (as if it wouldn’t have been better if people like  Eisner weren’t officers in the IDF ). And it’s no less ridiculous to hear the  Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, say Eisner’s actions “run contrary to IDF  values” – as if IDF officers and soldiers don’t behave in exactly the same way  every day in the territories, just not usually on camera.

Indeed, even the excessive storm that the blow with the rifle butt gave rise  to is funny. After all, what happened? There were cameras.

A blow with the butt of a rifle? Late last week, B’Tselem published another  video clip captured by Palestinian TV near the bicycle protest: Eisner is seen  walking and striking nearly everything that moves with his weapon, as if he was  some nightclub bouncer. Five demonstrators tasted the butt of his weapon, from  the front and the back. The video also exposes the “violence” of the  demonstrators and their “threat” to the soldiers: one of them began pedaling on  his bike.

This section of the video was broadcast Friday night in symbolic proximity to  a report on violent incidents in soccer stadiums. The behavior of the hooligans  and players in the stadiums was not much different to that of Eisner. Between  the IDF on the one hand, and Bnei Lod and Hapoel Ramat Gan on the other, you  will find few differences. Following the disturbances on the soccer pitch, the  league championship action was canceled this weekend. Eisner’s violence will  stop nothing, except for slightly sidetracking his career.

But once the brief comic relief is over, the depressing reality returns and  strikes you full in the face. It’s now clear that Eisner’s action was not a  momentary outburst. The thought that an officer like Eisner was to preside as  deputy commander of the Officers’ Training school (had it not been for the  accident with the cameras ) should be a cause for concern – first and foremost  to the IDF itself.

Above all, the Eisner case provides a telling snapshot of Israeli society.  Immediately following the release of the video, it reacted in line with its  typical parameters: the right instantly crowned Eisner a national hero; the  remainder of the left expressed shock; and the vast majority of the public,  presumably, thought Eisner was wronged. It is hard to imagine why.

The basic human instinct of any person, on the right or the left, should have  led him to respond in shock at seeing the scenes of an officer brutally striking  a demonstrator armed with only a bicycle. The basic instinct of someone who  supports democracy should also be the same. What is right or left in this case?  Why is the right not shocked by the behavior of a thug? Why has Eisner become  its hero? If blows against Arabs mean nothing because they are not perceived as  human, and striking a blow to the face of a fair-haired young Dane stirs none of  the required human response, then something very sick is going on.

True, the political brainwashing machine has imposed on us in recent years  (also through the media ) the assumption that a peace activist is a terrorist,  that every volunteer in the territories is an anarchist, and that everyone who  is critical is anti-Semitic. Nonetheless, I suspect that the people want  violence – and the more the better against everyone who does not fall into line.

The end of this affair is clear and depressing: Col. Eisner will be  compensated for the “wrong” he has suffered, either in the IDF or elsewhere; the  hostility (and violence ) of officers and soldiers in the IDF – which is  directed against demonstrators and, especially, cameramen – will be increased  even more; and the public will stick to its belief that the IDF is the most  ethical army in the world.