The crazy rabbi who pronounced recently that if the IDF allows women to perform in public, then observant men should immediately leave the area even if it’s against military regulations and even if the punishment for such behavior is death, is at it again. Today Rabbi Elyakim Levanon pronounced that Ehud Barak was “igniting fire” because he has strongly opposed the wild behavior of certain settler protesters. Rather then blaming the protesters, who actually entered an IDF base and physically attacked a brigade commander and his second in command, he makes a point to equate their actions with those of the government of Israel.
[Levanon] slammed the conduct of the government and its leaders, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, “who are toughening their stance, and as a result, prompting extremists to do inconceivable things. There is no reason to threaten to evacuate outpost, while a solution can be reached anywhere.
“This is violence and this is violence,” he added. “There is violence against Jews on the part of those young extremists who run wild, and there is the violence of the Israeli government against peaceful and quiet settlers.”
What has the Israeli government done that is “violent?” Well, first and foremost it sends soldiers to protect the settlers. Second, it subsidizes the settlements in all kinds of ways. Third, it takes an enormous amount of international heat because of the settlements. Fourth, it often defends settlement activities in the courts. Fifth, it enables settlement growth through its own legal channels. Sixth, it postpones and postpones the dismantling of outposts that are illegal and against its own planning regulations – even when it really pisses off the American government and the Europeans. Seventh, it handles settlers with velvet gloves when some of them commit crimes. Eighth, very often it turns a blind eye to settler trespasses of the law or just of normal, moral behavior. Ninth, it funnels resources that could be used inside the Green Line to settlements that are outside territory that Israel has offered to keep in peace deals with the Palestinians. Tenth, it keeps many of the rabbis who are the leaders of the settlement movement in jobs on which they live.
It’s true, though. Every once in a while the Israeli government talks really, really tough about dismantling illegal outposts. Sometimes it even does dismantle one or two, even if infrequently. This is what Levanon is calling violence and this is the offense which he uses to explain settler violence.
Who are these hooligans? Bands of mostly young men, extremist modern Orthodox in the Israel kipa sruga mode, who are taking the movement from the center of Israeli discourse to the fringes of lunacy and potential civil war. They are sometimes related, and often neighbors of, many soldiers in the IDF’s combat units. Many believe that some of those soldier do indeed put their ideology ahead of their commitment to Israel’s IDF and Israel’s government. Make no mistake, I believe and I think most believe that if such soldiers exist, they are a small minority, but it is a critical issue about which the the IDF has expressed concern, as have many commentators, including some who aren’t on the left.
To their credit, a number of prominent rabbis spoke out and without Levanon-style equivocation against the behavior of these criminals.
The chief rabbi called on the law authorities to “use a firm hand against the rioters.” According to Metzger, “Damaging IDF property is a horrible defamation of God. Nothing justifies such a violent act, especially when it is directed at the IDF and its soldiers, who sacrifice their lives to protect the people of this country.”
Military Chief Rabbi Brigadier-General Rafi Peretz denounced what he defined as “crimes of revenge of any kind.” …[He] added that price tag activities were forbidden by Halacha and that he expected Religious Zionism rabbis to strongly denounce them.
What should the Israeli government do?
It’s in a tough place. It can’t remove its soldiers who protect settlements without endangering the lives of Israeli civilians in those settlements and also enabling the hooligans from attacking Palestinians or committing acts against Palestinian property with intent to incite. The government can’t easily cut funds or financial support either since the infrastructure that has been built is already part of the government’s debt. It may also find it hard to stop supporting growth in the very settlements that it has spent years telling the US government deserve “natural growth.”
So what should it do? It should come down with the full force of the law against these hooligans and even apply some tactics that have been used against Palestinian terrorists. For example, when it’s discovered who injured the brigade commander and his associate, they should be sent to prison for a long time. Then the IDF should destroy their homes and the homes of their leaders. If they’re young and living with parents, destroy the parents’ homes. Block their bank accounts. Living with parents? Block the parents’ bank accounts.
And arrest them without fear or concern; arrest them whenever they even begin to think of protesting. Monitor them as if they are terrorists so that any plans they hatch are doomed. Find their leaders and make examples of them while restricting their ability to communicate with their gangs.
But careful. Nobody should be killed or seriously injured while the government enforces its laws and rules. That would spark a civil war. Do to them what they do to everybody: keep it on low ebb sufficiently that nobody bothers you too much, but make sure you do it often enough and seriously enough that it will make the hooligans strongly reconsider the wisdom of taking their criminal, dangerous, immoral path.