BY MICHAEL FREUND, JPOST—
Earlier this week, the IDF went viral, but for all the wrong reasons. After Lt.- Col. Shalom Eisner struck a pro-Palestinian Danish protester in the face with his rifle on Saturday, an edited video of the incident was quickly uploaded to the Internet, garnering worldwide attention and condemnation.
Not surprisingly, Israel’s critics wasted little time, seizing upon the episode to highlight their contention that the Jewish state is cruel, brutal and ruthless.
After all, here was this seemingly innocent, blond-haired, blue-eyed Dane minding his own business, when a gruff, kippah-wearing Jew with a beard took a cheap shot and knocked him backwards.
Case closed, right? Well, don’t let their haughty indignation fool you. The reaction to this episode has been overblown and unjust, and we must not allow our foes to besmirch the good name of the IDF or the country it is tasked to defend.
To be sure, anyone who watches the video of Eisner cannot help but cringe as he raises his rifle and slams the protester. Taken entirely out of context, it appears to be an unwarranted and unprovoked assault.
We expect the most out of our men in uniform, and rightly so. Jewish soldiers representing the Jewish state must uphold the highest moral, ethical and professional standards. That is what differentiates us from our enemies.
But while the camera may not lie, it can certainly tell a tall tale. And that is precisely what happened in this case.
The fact is that there were some 250 European and Palestinian anarchists and protesters who were illegally attempting to block Route 90, the main artery through the Jordan River Valley. They ignored instructions to disperse, hurled insults at the soldiers and repeatedly attempted to provoke them.
As has been widely reported, Eisner’s hand was broken when he was subjected to physical violence before the filmed incident took place.
And all of this took place on the Sabbath, no less. Showing an utter lack of respect for the Jewish day of rest, the protesters behaved like the hooligans that they are.
Indeed, many are affiliated with the International Solidarity Movement, a radical outfit whose mission statement declares, “we recognize the Palestinian right to resist Israeli violence and occupation via legitimate armed struggle.” In other words, they justify violence and terror.
Hence, the much-talked-about video only tells a very small part of the larger story.
However mistaken or misguided Eisner’s actions might have been, they were clearly taken in the heat of the moment and under extreme duress. By all accounts, his military career has been marked by integrity, discipline and self-restraint.
To judge him based on two minutes of a YouTube video would be a miscarriage of justice and a triumph of stupidity over common sense.
Eisner has devoted his life to the defense of the Jewish people. While many of us were at home this past weekend enjoying our families and feasting on matza, he was out in the field confronting those who seek to do us harm. Don’t we at least owe him the benefit of the doubt? I am convinced that lurking behind much of the world’s criticism of the Eisner affair is an underlying unwillingness to accept that Jews can and will fight back.
The international community is only too happy to applaud us when we retreat, withdraw and run away like the cowards they expect us to be. But when Israel takes action to defend itself against rocket attacks, suicide bombers and those who seek our destruction, we are vilified and condemned like no other country.
Over the course of two millennia, the nations of the world became accustomed to the powerlessness of the Jew, and old habits die hard. Nearly 64 years after the establishment of the modern State of Israel, they still find the idea of proud and self-confident Jews difficult to swallow.
And so they expect us to allow ISM lawbreakers to visit our country, slander our state, block our roads and attack our soldiers. Oh yes, and we have to smile for the camera too. Well guess what? The centuries of Jewish helplessness and subjection are over. This is our home and we will defend it with all our might.
Mistakes will be made, and various actions such as those of Shalom Eisner will be open to differing interpretations.
But at the end of the day, one thing should be patently clear: when we come under attack, Jews – like anyone else – have the right and the duty to fight back. And that is what we shall do.