The Incident in Hebron
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Things happen in war and in occupation and when 20 year old's run around with guns. Young soldiers experience more horror and tragedy frequently than they can absorb. Sometime it leads to horrific events such as occurred last week in Hebron, where an apparently unstable young IDF soldier shot dead in the head a wounded Palestinian laying on the ground already wounded at point blank range.
It is clear that in all military situations there are problems and incidents like this horror. There are also soldiers who should never been enlisted because of their emotional instability. There is also today an educational/cultural/religious environment which encourages a type of thinking that “the only good Arab is a dead one”.
Furthermore, the IDF is a remarkably humane and well trained force which consistently puts itself to the test as its soldiers are ordered to try to minimize collateral damage and civilian casualties. There are remarkable stories of how Israel soldiers take precautions—endangering themselves and their colleagues—to avoid indiscriminate killing. There are, nevertheless, incidents which occur and the persistent unresolved conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis only exacerbates that condition. This does not justify the actions of the IDF soldier in Hebron but at least seeks to explain it.
The real outrage in this horror is to watch the Israeli political leadership responding with such equivocating reactions to such an apparently outrageous confrontation which went crazy. The fact that Israeli leaders have such an insane need to measure their responses against their political vulnerabilities and cannot suck it up and scream out is shattering.
Even accepting that their responses need to be measured given the need for the military/legal systems to do their work, there is no justification for so much posturing and politicizing over an incident of a soldier apparently shooting a prone wounded Palestinian in the head. This is hardly a time for politics, yet that is precisely what has occurred among the various right-wing leaders. Sadly, they do not remember that the infamous, senseless Baruch Goldstein massacre also occurred on Purim.
Finally, where are the rabbinic leaders at a time that the country needs moral and ethical leaders? From the sound of the discussions in Jerusalem yesterday, it seemed they preferred to pontificate against women’s rights to pray at the Kotel than to speak out about the implications of the tragedy in Hebron.