The veteran journalist Israel Harel has admitted in these pages that he came out in defense of violent Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner because he was pressured by someone from his own milieu. ("Sacrificed on the altar of PR," April 19 ). In the end, Harel obeyed the man he called B., whose views, he said, were "well considered and highly regarded."
In a harsh tone unusual for him, Harel presented the brute Eisner as an exemplary individual who, like others before him, has been "sacrificed on the public relations altar of the senior IDF command." Having already exaggerated, Harel went all the way and all at once lost his image as a moderate representative of the settlers.
To sane Israelis, this may be a turning point in the status of settlers affiliated with the National Religious Party. Like Harel, almost all of these settlers have come to toe the line of the far rightists among whom they live in the territories. And there's no chance a new process will stop the erosion. Harel saw Eisner's criminal attack on the Danish peace activist, as we all did. It's strange he views the officer who went wrong as an exemplary individual and calls on people of conscience who are "looking after the true spirit of the IDF" to protest the man's (temporary? ) dismissal.
It seems Harel has realized something about the way the Israel Defense Forces operates, and we can't hide that this is pure hypocrisy on the part of the IDF command. Violence in the territories is an outcome of a long occupation, and the Palestinians receive treatment much more violent than the demonstrator from Denmark did. So the dilemma that Israelis and the politicians who purport to represent them face has nothing to do with image but with essence.
Israel is becoming a pariah state because the extreme right has taken it over almost entirely. The army has undergone an extreme turnabout and does not distinguish between anti-Semitism and the abhorrence the enlightened world feels toward it as a settler and an occupier. If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself is indulging in primitive PR like letters to the editor and comments below online articles, it's very hard to call a man like Harel on the carpet.
Israelis, who do not yet fully understand the discourse of the nationalist center and right (and therefore still can't understand the reality in the world and the region ) should openly distance themselves from people like Harel. We must be completely indifferent to "image" unless it stems from essence. If Israel carries out crimes in the territories, we must come out against the perpetrators and abandon any moral common denominator with them.
Did Harel defend a man who cruelly struck another person in the face with his rifle? It's a good thing he did, because he exposed his true face. We will learn nothing from him about values or gaps in the values of officers who treat Eisner with kid gloves. There is no connection between the promotion of violent officers and the exaggerated tolerance shown them on the one hand, and the function of an army in wartime on the other.
To deal with violence and officers' increasing tendency to carry out crimes in the territories, the occupation must be deemed an obstacle not only to peace but to Israel's joining the enlightened world. Eisner may really be the face of the IDF in 2012, but that's a reason for existential concern, not something to take pride in.
If the prime minister is serious about a two-state solution, he must purge the army of officers who believe that the occupation is eternal and stems from a divine commandment that must be obeyed. Eisner is only one officer in a large group of IDF commanders who is not fighting our war, but rather a campaign to perpetuate the metastasizing settlements. These people must be uprooted from the army before we get to the serious work of uprooting the settlements from the occupied land.