Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Does Israel offer a view of a possible US future?

with 6 comments

Ronen Bergman writes in the NY Times:

IN most countries, the political class supervises the defense establishment and restrains its leaders from violating human rights or pursuing dangerous, aggressive policies. In Israel, the opposite is happening. Here, politicians blatantly trample the state’s values and laws and seek belligerent solutions, while the chiefs of the Israel Defense Forces and the heads of the intelligence agencies try to calm and restrain them.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offer last week of the post of defense minister to Avigdor Lieberman, a pugnacious ultranationalist politician, is the latest act in the war between Mr. Netanyahu and the military and intelligence leaders, a conflict that has no end in sight but could further erode the rule of law and human rights, or lead to a dangerous, superfluous military campaign.

The prime minister sees the defense establishment as a competitor to his authority and an opponent of his goals. Putting Mr. Lieberman, an impulsive and reckless extremist, in charge of the military is a clear signal that the generals’ and the intelligence chiefs’ opposition will no longer be tolerated. Mr. Lieberman is known for ruthlessly quashing people who hold opposing views.

This latest round of this conflict began on March 24: Elor Azariah, a sergeant in the I.D.F., shot and killed a Palestinian assailant who was lying wounded on the ground after stabbing one of Sergeant Azariah’s comrades. The I.D.F. top brass condemned the killing. A spokesman for Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, the chief of staff, said, “This isn’t the I.D.F., these are not the I.D.F.’s values.”

But right-wing politicians backed Sergeant Azariah. “I.D.F. soldiers, our children, stand before murderous attacks by terrorists who come to kill them,” the prime minister said. “They have to make decisions in real time.” Mr. Lieberman, then still the leader of a small far-right opposition party, turned up in military court to support the soldier. Mr. Netanyahu also called the soldier’s father to offer support.

An I.D.F. general told me that the top brass saw the telephone call as a gross defiance of the military’s authority. The deputy chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, chose one of the most sensitive dates on the Israeli calendar, Holocaust Memorial Eve, to react: He suggested that Israel today in some ways resembles Germany in the 1930s.

Mr. Netanyahu countered that General Golan’s words do Israel an injustice and “cheapen the Holocaust.” His defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, a former chief of staff and a member of Mr. Netanyahu’s party, backed the army. He told a gathering of top officers to speak freely, even if it went against political leaders. . .

Continue reading.

The shooting of the wounded prisoner offering no threat—and by a medic, no less—is clearly and unambiguously a war crime. War crimes now are praised and defended even when they are clearly war crimes. In the US we see Donald Trump call more more torture, and worse torture, and killing the families of (suspected?) terrorists, and being applauded for it.

And of course the approach being taken will motivate more strongly those viewed as “the enemy,” though of course other descriptions might be conceived. (Cf. the essay in Stir blogged earlier.)

We live in dangerous times.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 May 2016 at 12:37 pm

6 Responses

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  1. Hoo-hah! You’ve swallowed a *lot* of Arab propaganda about Israel! Remember that Israel is a small country surrounded by a sea of foaming-fanatic enemies, with knots of blatant traitors and saboteurs inside its borders, trying to treat those enemies with a modicum of humane respect that its enemies certainly don’t return. Yes, the country pretty much has to be “militarized” under those conditions. I’d like to know how else it could survive.

    Leslie Fish

    22 May 2016 at 4:03 pm

  2. BTW, I looked up that “war crime” case, and the facts are a bit different from what you’ve been told. That “unarmed” Palestinian (who had just stabbed one of the sergeant’s men) wasn’t just “lying wounded on the ground”; he was struggling to reach a weapon — in fact, the same knife he’d just used on the soldier. It’s true that Sgt. Azariah could have simply kicked the knife further out of the assailant’s reach instead of shooting him, but it’s quite understandable that he shot the attacker instead. Plenty of US cops have gotten away with worse, on less excuse. It’s a measure of Israel’s liberal humanism that this case has become a cause for a human-rights argument rather than just being written off.

    Leslie Fish

    22 May 2016 at 4:14 pm

  3. I am not sure how your comments relate to the column, which seems to describe Israeli rather than Arab reactions. Perhaps you can reread it more carefully.

    I do agree that US police departments seem to frequently employ excessive force and shoot unarmed suspects. Indeed, the list is pretty long: Tamir Rice (shot within 2 seconds for playing with a toy gun in a park), John Crawford shot to death in Walmart for holding a BB gun he planned to buy, Walter Scott shot to death in Charleston after a traffic stop for a broken taillight, and many many others).

    But somehow you seem to think that because the US has frequent human and civil rights violations, including use of deadly force against non-threatening individuals, that this means it is okay for other nations to do the same. But what I would hold is that the US offenses are just as bad, but because they are not done by the military, they are not war crimes. (Though the US has plenty of war crimes of its own, including torturing to death civilian prisoners.)

    I do not read Arab propaganda. Apparently you think that no one could possibly object to what the Israeli government does based simply on their actions, not on any sort of propaganda. You are wrong. And you’ll note that many of the voices raised in alarm are Israeli voices. Indeed, the point of the column, should you care to read it, is that the IDF disagrees strongly with the aims and methods of Benjamin Netanyahu.

    BTW, here’s a video of the shooting of the unarmed and wounded prisoner: it does not match your description. But I think you are working from Israeli government propaganda. Here’s the video.

    EDIT: BTW, don’t feel bad. It seems quite common for US police accounts of what happened to be totally at odds with what is videotaped as happening.


    22 May 2016 at 4:44 pm

  4. BTW, apparently (if you actually read the column) the IDF has also “swallowed a *lot* of Arab propaganda”—or perhaps they do not realize the situation in Israel. You think? Or maybe you’re simply wrong and failed to read the column.


    22 May 2016 at 5:35 pm

  5. Leisure Guy, I’m fed up with propaganda, wherever it comes from. Bergman surely meant to begin with ‘in most [democratic] countries’. I don’t trust politicians no matter what side of the divide they belong, and I don’t trust writers who prefer to hear their words echoed back at them rather than go to the trouble to acknowledge that other voices and valid opinions exist.

    The great thing about democracy is that (even in Israel, according to you) people’s voices aren’t stifled. In a democracy, all are free to speak out without being shot at or beheaded.


    9 June 2016 at 8:44 pm

  6. Well, I’ll accept that propaganda is bad, but I’m not sure of the relevance here. Clearly Netanyahu is taking a very strong position and is supporting the shooting by troops (by medics, even) of wounded prisoners, and that is a war crime. Those are simply facts, according to all the reports I’ve read, and we even have a video of the prisoner being shot—and now we know that two prisoners were shot.

    Of course there are voices in Israel opposing Netanyahu, and indeed there are voices in the US opposing Trump. But Trump’s positions, such as they are, are bad, and I think it’s right to oppose his views. Same Netanyahu.

    It might help if you were more specific in what you disagree with here.


    9 June 2016 at 9:25 pm

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