Opinion |

A Soldier Pushes an Old Man to the Ground. Israel Barely Slaps Him on the Wrist

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
Israeli officer pushes his knee against the head of activist Tuly Flint in the South Hebron Hills on Saturday
Israeli officer pushes his knee against the head of activist Tuly Flint in the South Hebron Hills on Saturday
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Want to hear a joke? Maj. Maor Moshe was reprimanded. The officer in the Engineering Corps who angrily shoved a nonviolent Israeli protester, an older man, throwing him roughly to the ground, causing him injuries to the eye and face, and eyes, received a formal reprimand from his commanding officers. When was the last time you heard anything so hilarious?

Had he been a civilian, he would have been charged with causing grievous bodily harm under Article 333 of the Penal Code, an offense liable to seven years’ imprisonment. If this civilian were a recidivist thug like Maj. Moshe – according to testimonies by Palestinians this was not the first violent incident in which he was involved – he would have been jailed for the duration of the criminal proceedings, due to the risk he poses to the public.

But the hooligan from the Hebron Hills is not a civilian, he is an IDF officer, for whom everything is permitted. His reprimand is not a joke, it’s the shameful reality: a reprimand for conduct befitting a storm trooper. This was however, a graver punishment than that meted out to soldiers who have killed innocent Palestinians at will in recent months – in Beita, for example, not a Friday goes by without a victim – two days ago the father of an infant was killed – but Moshe assaulted a Jew. A leftist, admittedly, but a Jew nonetheless. Hence the reprimand.

Maj. Moshe was trained to speak one language in the occupied territories, the language of storm troopers, unless he is facing settlers, who are themselves allowed to behave like storm troopers. When facing anyone else – leftists, human rights activists, foreigners, journalists and, of course, Palestinians – one must speak bully-to-human-being. Moshe knows no other language. Next to him was seen, and not for the first time, a soldier with a patch of a skull and a Star of David – the new look of the Israel Defense Forces.

Had Moshe been trained differently, he would have inquired about the identity of the people he was attacking with tear gas and stun grenades and chasing away as if they were a pack of jackals. But he didn’t even pay attention to the age of the people facing him, around that of his parents. Accustomed to dealing with Palestinians, he did not even see human beings. What would he do if his parents were attacked in this manner? Does he ever think of this while abusing elderly Palestinians?

Members of Combatants for Peace were bringing water to the Hamamdi family. An older couple, they live with the wife’s intellectually disabled sister on what remains of their land, in a shack that was partly demolished by Israel. Across from them is the settlement outpost of Avigail, which is immeasurably more illegal than their shack. Avigail has power and water; the Hamamdis do not. Why? Apartheid. But such considerations are beyond those of Maj. Moshe, the occupation’s subcontractor. He knows that Avigail is Israel, and must be protected. The Hamamdis are terrorists, as are those who bring them water.

The joke isn’t Moshe, but rather his commanders. The chief of staff, speaking loftily about values; the defense minister, who is also considered a man of principle, even a leftist; and a division commander who said the people who brought the water “were bent on carrying out provocations.” Have they no shame?

They should be ashamed to speak this way about people who are trying to salvage the last vestiges of Israel’s humanity in this persecuted, Godforsaken place. They should be ashamed for depriving old people of water. With such commanders, what can we expect of the poor engineering officer? After all, he was only reprimanded, instead of being arrested immediately and charged appropriately. The truth is that the IDF values him for his conduct, even though the chorus of military correspondents parroted, as dictated to them, that “the IDF views his conduct gravely.”

The thug who attacks leftists in the Hebron Hills will attack leftist demonstrators in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square. That’s why he’s dangerous. Maybe he sees them as condescending Ashkenazim, perhaps as ivory-tower intellectuals or leftist traitors. His motives are of no interest. When he knocks elderly Palestinians to the ground, no one will reprimand him. That’s why he continued to act as he did. Maor, the hooligan from the Hebron Hills, the IDF is proud of you, as are most Israeli Jews. That is precisely why you were sent to serve there.

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