The rifle butting attack by IDF Lt. Colonel Shalom Eisner against a pro-Palestinian Danish protestor on Saturday in the Jordan Valley during a demonstration, sadly exemplified before the entire world much about what is wrong about the status quo of life in Israel. While there are many great and wonderful things occurring throughout Israel at this time on numerous fronts, it was this attack which resonated among so many of Israel’s enemies. Although Eisner, the deputy commander of the Jordan Valley Brigade has been suspended and a full investigation begun, much damage has been done.
The story which appeared in the New York Times was reported and analyzed clearly and carefully yesterday in his blog by Shmuel Rosner in Rosner’s Domain, which appears in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal. Rosner insightfully addressed the political, military, geo-political, religious, and human rights implications of this attack and how Israeli authorities have, might, and will respond to the incident. There is one aspect of Rosner’s commentary which seems to have fallen between the cracks; the implications of this action for Israeli democracy.
Since the second Intifada more and more Israelis appear to be having trouble dealing with and operating within democratic norms. The fact that Israel faces serious issues with the Palestinians and even with Arabs within Israel does not permit the right to ignore citizens’ democratic rights or even the rights of those advocating on behalf of non-citizens. The fact that the haredim are permitted to flagrantly challenge Israeli law both in the streets and on the buses ought not to prevent elected governmental officials from enforcing the law, regardless of the political consequences. Religious coercion and intolerance cannot continue to be tolerated and women’s right and their religious options must be sustained. In the case of Shalom Eisner, the rule of law means that basic rights must be guaranteed, not flaunted by those entrusted with their enforcement. Military and security needs can permit suspension of such rights, but, at this time, this incident certainly does not appear to have been such an event.