Who Dares Raise His Hand Against a Soldier?
The front page of the hebrew language hareidi daily Hamavaser Thursday was dominated by an article by journalist Eliyahu Zalmanovitz accusing the government of hypocrisy and of smearing Israelis who live in Judea and Samaria.
The article comes after a contentious protest by some 50 youth at the Ephraim Brigade headquarters in Samaria after word demolition orders would be carried out in the night began the circulate Monday night. The youth clashed with soldiers and, according to security officials, threw stones and Molotov cocktails at IDF vehicles. They were correct about the demolition plans.
Community leaders and rabbis in Judea and Samaria have roundly condemned the incident as "shameful and a disgrace," and declared "attacking IDF soldiers is a grave sin." However, they also criticized Israel's political echelon for using the IDF – the army of the people – as a tool on issues that are disputed politically and for using soldiers in the Gush Katif expulsion.
In the Hamavaser article Zalmanovitz notes that even though some 130 soldiers and policemen have been injured by protesters in Bil'in by Arabs, anarchists and leftist Israellis over the years, the violent demonstrations there have not raised the ire of security officials or drawn charges of "terrorism" from ministers, the way the Ephraim Brigade incident has.
Zalmanovitz writes, "Right-wing government ministers already called to recognize the right-wing protesters as 'terrorists.' They demand the Prime Minister 'stop the madness.' These days microphone-hungry demagogues issue harsh proclamations and issue calls to fire on right-wing activists with live ammunition [a reference to former Labor minister Benyamin ben Eliezer who actually said that on Israeli television, ed.]. In the past days Jewish boys who pose no terrorist threat have been are removed from their homes without any law using administrative orders - and human rights activists are silent.
"Without downplaying the seriousness of injuring a soldier, IDF soldiers and Border Police were injured in demonstrations in Bil'in just last Friday. If you have not heard an outcry and seen ministers moved to the 'depths of their souls' at the injury of our soldiers, it is because the protesters were leftists. The outrage from the government comes because these IDF soldiers [at the Ephraim Brigade headquarters] were in clashes with the government's own camp.
"Twenty-two months ago there was a celebratory demonstration marking the Arab and left's struggle for Bil'in. After the incident the Central Command claimed it was proof the IDF allows non-violent demonstrations. But at that demonstration some of the protesters clearly resorted to violence, throwing stones and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to the security fence. Since the beginning of the protests 110 soldiers and police have been injured at Bilin. Data provided yesterday show that the number of soldiers and policemen wounded in clashes reached about 130.
"Where and when was an emergency cabinet meeting on this issue? Where did a special ministerial committee convene to draw up stricter policies for enforcement and operations against the Bil'in rioters? When did Minister Aharonovich (Israel Beiteinu) call for them to be defined as "terrorists" in honor of the 130 troops who have been injured?!
"Those looking for an example of demagoguery and the right's inability to control it will find it here. Protesters from the left who attack soldiers and policemen - that is treated as legitimate. Protesters from the right who do the same - they are 'terrorists' from day one," he concludes.
Zalmanovitz's charges echo those of rabbis and leaders in Judea and Samaria who have accused the government of blowing the incident out of proportion for cynical political ends. They claim there are provocateurs among the youth and that reports were exaggerated as only a few rioters were caught, an almost impossible situation in a closed army camp.
Prime Minister Netanyahu on Wednesday accepted recommendations from his senior security officials for heightened security procedures targeting nationalist protesters in Judea and Samaria. He has so far refused the recommendation for such protesters to be defined as "terrorists."
On Thusday Netanyahu told his supporters in Likud "whoever dares raise his hand against soldiers or police will pay a heavy price for it."