Saturday, March 17, 2012

Rules of Engagement IX: Israel Update

Previous installments: IIIIIIIVVVIan updateVII, and VIII

A frequent series I've been running here has been a look at the rules of engagement; how a culture's rules on who can use force and how reflect their values, and are core to civic structure.

A quick update from the Holy Land:
Clashes between the Israeli army and locals in the West Bank aren't a new story. The apparent twist in these incidents... is that the rioters were Israelis—young, extreme rightists commonly known as "hilltop youth." The reason for their wrath, according to the flood of Israeli news reports of the eventful night, was rumors that the police and army were about to carry out Israeli Supreme Court orders to evacuate a small settlement outpost, Ramat Gilad, built in violation of the laws in force in the West Bank. 
From Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu down, Israeli officials responded as if the confrontations represented an unprecedented internal assault on the state, the rule of law, and Israel's internal cohesion. After an emergency meeting with cabinet ministers and top army and police commanders, Netanyahu declared, "We have a democracy in this country. … No one is allowed to break the law. No one is allowed to attack Israel Defense Forces soldiers." The head of the army's Central Command, responsible for the West Bank, said that "in 30 years in the service, I've never seen hatred like this from Jews toward our soldiers." In a press statement, Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared that "homegrown terror … will not be tolerated." 
In short, Netanyahu, Barak, and colleagues were shocked, shocked to find that settlers were breaking the law and that the extreme right can attack the state. 
It's unsurprising that violence has become the default for all inter-communal exchanges in the area. Certainly nobody, from the highest levels of government on down, is trying to set an example that maybe force is not the first, last, and final tactic.

My grandfather, who was imprisoned several times by the British during the Mandate occupation of Israel, still remembers them kindly. Even as they were executing his compatriots, his comment to me was that they were never abusive, and always acted as gentlemen. It didn't lead to a victory over Jewish terrorism, nor did it lead the more brutal parts of the resistance movement to moderate their violence.