Haredi soldiers kick PA Arabs: Questions unasked, unanswered
Whether civilians or soldiers are involved, the first reaction of some of our leaders who hear about Jewish violence against Palestinian Arabs in Judea-Samaria is to malign the Jews .The latest incident involves Haredi soldiers in the unit called Netzach Yehuda (Judah’s Eternal Battalion) and, immediately upon seeing a supposedly incriminating video, Rav-Aluf Aviv Kochavi, Chief of General Staff of the IDF said:
This is a most serious incident that arouses disgust and is against IDF values. The soldiers involved do not merit being soldiers. We will hold those involved to account. There is, and will not be, a place in the IDF for such behaviour.
At least Prime Minister Lapid and Defense Minister Gantz kept their mouths shut this time. Not like last year at Sukkot, when it was “settlers” who supposedly committed a “pogrom” against illegal squatters in the South Hebron Hills, something for which another possible version to the story was discovered in an investigation by a budding investigative reporter (yours truly).
MK Betzalel Smotrich (Religious Zionism) responded to the instantaneous defamation of the soldiers:
…it is dangerous weakness and ineffectualness arising from the wish to be seen as good even at the price of abandoning soldiers and turning our backs on those who protect us and fight for us. The automatic adoption of the Arab version and the quickness to apologize and to shake off the soldiers instead of standing by them reflect lack of self-confidence and belief in ourselves. This is bad and dangerous.
Almost all the news articles I could find merely showed the video in question and posted Kochavi’s statement. A few gave minimal attention to what the soldiers said about the situation. Watch the video and think about what you are seeing. I ask you to wonder if you know enough from these 14 seconds to be so definitive as Kochavi is.
Should one not ask:
- What happened before these 14 seconds?
- Who was that at a distance filming the incident and why they were there at that precise moment? After all, it is well known that there are those who deliberately set up a provocation in order to take compromising videos of soldiers and Jewish residents of Judea-Samaria.
- Why did the video end when it did? Did something take place afterward that would have taken away the punch of these 14 seconds?
The Jerusalem Post reports that “initial findings revealed that the soldiers had flagged a car they deemed suspicious and treated the driver and passenger with unnecessary violence.”
Of course, from the video they know the violence was unnecessary, right?
This raises a fourth question:
- What is the nature of the “initial investigation” mentioned in many of the articles, or “initial findings” in the JPost article above? Is it just the 14-second video itself and a statement offered by the soldiers involved? If so, does this merit being called an “investigation” or “findings?”
Ynetnews provided an account offered by the soldiers, themselves:
According to the account of troops, they identified a Palestinian driving in the opposite direction of the traffic and without a license plate. The soldiers ordered the vehicle to stop, but the driver sped up toward them, while the other passenger attempted to flee on foot.
During the attempt to take control of the vehicle, the troops claimed one of the Palestinians tried to snatch the weapon from one of them, which prompted the soldiers to use excessive force to apprehend the suspect, including kicking and punching him.
Times of Israel says that investigators are not convinced by the soldiers’ story. And in this quote by ynetnews, we see that at least one journalist was not either — he already called it “excessive force” when he likely does not know the answer to any of the four questions above. He also left out the part where the soldiers claim that they were afraid they were going to be attacked.
A fuller version was published by JDN News (a Haredi news site) after conversation with some of the accused soldiers’ peers in the battalion. The accused believed the Arabs were terrorists about to ram their car into them and they tried to neutralize them without using firearms. When the Arabs failed at ramming them, they tried to run away. The soldiers chased them on foot and caught them. At that point, the two Arabs tried to grab one soldier’s weapon and then the soldiers began to hit them as shown in the video. The video shows only the end of the incident, they said, and these were not “innocent Palestinians.”
Who Really Wants Hardeim in the IDF?
Why are none of the media reports raising the point that the video is only 14 seconds and does not show what preceded the kicks and pushing? As I was closing up this piece, setting it aside for editing, one article came out that did raise the fact that this is only a 14-second video: “Haredi combatants become pariahs over 14 seconds of arab-edited video.” This one article sent me back to do a re-search of all news reports to see if Hebrew articles began to ask the questions. They did not.
Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nahman Shai (Labour), who was IDF spokesman for a number of years, calls for the entire battalion to be disbanded. Funnily enough nobody seems to call for any other unit to be dismantled when problems arise with some of the soldiers. And just ten days ago, 200 new Haredi recruits were enlisted in the IDF with pride:
“We welcome the new recruits with open arms,” haredi administration head Amir Zuzut told the recruits. “These are top young men, who decided to dedicate the next few years of their lives to the Nation of Israel and the State of Israel.”
What happened between last week and this week?
In an interview, Yossi Levi, CEO of Netzach Yehuda, says that the battalion is very high quality indeed:
Value-laden and self-sacrificing, the battalion won a certificate of excellence just this year for thousands of life-saving operations! So all the keyboard denigrators — shame!
Levi does not usually comment on incidents such as these before a full investigation has been completed, but the media has already jumped on this one and acts as if the judgement has already been declared. On the night in question, he says, the battalion arrested 22 terrorists, a fact that does not appear in any of the media reports. No mention is made of the thousands of successful operations but the few instances of problematic behaviour get far more focus than than that awarded any other unit in the IDF. Levi says that that makes him wonder how much people really want to see Haredim integrated into the army.
ADDENDUM: On the same day that this article was uploaded online, WIN also published a piece criticizing Kochavi’s rush to judge: Religious soldiers claim ‘unfair scrutiny,’ say IDF head rushes to take Palestinian side
Feature Image Credit: Israelsoldier at en.wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons