The Cynical Exploitation of a Soldier's Death

Haaretz Editorial
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A mourner prepares to speak at the funeral of Border Police officer Barel Hadaria Shmueli on Monday evening.
Haaretz Editorial

The death of Border Police soldier Barel Hadaria Shmueli is being cynically and outrageously exploited. This is happening in a two-pronged approach, with one side fixated on seeking disproportionate revenge for his death, and the other seeking to return Benjamin Netanyahu to power by undermining the legitimacy of Naftali Bennett’s government.

Shmueli’s death resulted from a tactical error in the Gaza Division’s deployment. A Hamas man took advantage of this error and caused the tragic result. The online campaign begun by soldiers and reservists in the wake of the episode seeks to “free the hands” of IDF soldiers, so the fighters won’t be risking their lives due to the restrictions imposed on them.

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This is a dangerous campaign that blurs the fact that the IDF killed more than 200 Palestinians in incidents along the Gaza border in 2018-20. Many of the victims were killed or wounded with no justification. In the incident in which Shmueli was killed, two Palestinians were also killed and 40 were wounded.

So rather than “freeing the hands” of Israeli soldiers – which are already too free – the campaign’s real goal appears to be to avenge Shmueli’s death in a disproportionate way without the need for any military, national, or moral reckoning.

These soldiers’ and reservists’ desires to “free their hands” for revenge is being disgracefully exploited by political activists who support Netanyahu. In a series of disgusting displays, including at Shmueli’s funeral, they accused Bennett of being responsible for the soldier’s death (“You killed the boy, Bennett!”), showered him with ugly curses (“May your name be wiped out, Bennett!”), and incited violence against him (“Too bad they didn’t get you the same way, Bennett!”).

Not only have these activists not been denounced and singled out for posing a danger, they have received support from a number of politicians who are trying to exploit the momentum to deal a blow to Bennett while promoting Netanyahu’s return. When Likud lawmaker Nir Barkat calls for a parliamentary commission of inquiry to investigate Shmueli’s death, he is not just embarrassing himself, he is also showing shameless political opportunism.

Barel Hadaria Shmueli was killed in the line of duty. His death must not be exploited for political capital at the army’s expense. It must not be used as a means to remove all restraint against the Palestinians, or for unbridled political incitement that could culminate in the prime minister being harmed. In such a volatile situation, calm needs to prevail and people need to act in a thoughtful and appropriate manner.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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