Israel’s New Clowns

Larry King asked Prime Minister Netanyahu about a recent clip of Israel soldiers dancing in Hebron. The Prime Minister, who had more pressing matters on his mind, had not yet seen the clip.

Others, throughout Europe and elsewhere, have seen the clip. A group of Israeli soldiers break formation while patrolling in a deserted street in Hebron, start dancing “Tuk Tuk” (“Wake up in the Morning”) and then regroup into their former serious military assignment.

The original segment was quickly removed. But once on the Internet, footprints persist. In one that remains, a caption states the following: “Fact: Palestinians are not allowed to use the Shuhada street, the main thoroughfare of Hebron, which is restricted to settlers. Israeli settlers, who make up less than 1% of the population of Hebron, are the only ones allowed on this street.”

Over the past three days, this YouTube segment titled “It’s easy to laugh at the occupation when you’re the oppressor (and a douche bag)” has been viewed more than two and a quarter million times. Comments have now been disabled due to the overwhelming international response.

Israelis are quite happy with the performance. “It shows the soldiers as human beings,” stated one. “They are men, they are heroes,” said another. The news media in Israel is now filled with analysis indicating that the segment has helped Israel’s public relations stamina by injecting an adrenaline shot. Overall, the consensus is that this segment has done great service to Israel.

It seems that rather than going to the circus, we can all view YouTube to see bored Israeli soldiers as clowns instead. Apparently, they had enough time to come up with the idea, practice a few times, designate the official photographer and later upload the video to the Internet. One has to wonder if there are no guidelines governing operational activity?

Either guidelines do not exist in the IDF, or they are not followed. In another segment, a trailer titled “If Americans Knew,” another group of Israeli soldiers is seen standing above two civilians cowering on the ground. The civilians are trying to protect themselves. One soldier is using a large stone to hit the arm and the shoulder of one of the civilians, seemingly to break them. The inserted footage shows three soldiers, then a second time it portrays four soldiers.

Another seeming pastime activity of the soldiers is breaking arms of civilians. The “Israelis inflict on the innocent Palestinians exactly what the Nazis did to the Jews” is the voiceover. Along with the music and the former U.S. diplomats, Israel is found guilty as charged.

Is the segment real or staged? We all recall the father protecting his son, as Israelis shot from close range for half an hour and never hit even once. At the end of the scene, which ushered in the Second Intifada, the dead boy readjusted his position. What a miraculous rise from the dead!

Are these segments fabricated? Wouldn’t a sergeant who has served two or three years in a combat unit know better? Is this the face of the new Israel Defense Forces?

Israelis are apparently satisfied with this new method of Hasbara (Public Diplomacy). I disagree on many levels. If one wants to “feel good” about Israel, one can use the YouTube segments where a group of people seemingly spontaneously start to dance in a shopping mall. There is a trend for such segments all over the world. Shopping centers are indeed a great pastime for Israelis, exactly as they are for Americans.

What is wrong with soldiers dancing in the streets of Hebron? Why is a military presence necessary at all?

The second most important site for Jews, the Cave of the Patriarchs is located in Hebron. The Jewish elders of blessed memory believe there is extraordinary meaning in the place: This is the Gate of Heaven, where prayers as well as souls ascend.

There, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rivka and Jacob and Leah are buried. “The cave and adjoining field were bought by Abraham for full value” (Genesis 23). The Bible pays particular attention to this act that is mentioned several times in Genesis (see also Chapter 49).

Abraham insisted on paying for the property rather than accepting it as a gift.

The actual structure that exists today was built during the time of the Second Temple, likely by King Hordus who ruled Judea under the Roman auspices from 37 to 4 BC. The structure is believed to be a miniature replica of the Temple Mount that was destroyed.

The analogy to Jerusalem is striking, for it brings about the real difference between Jewish (i.e. Israeli) and Muslim rules. The former welcomes and enables freedom of religions, the latter is grossly intolerant of anything but the specific interpretation of those in power.

In Jerusalem, prayer is permitted to all and different religions are able to worship freely under Jewish rule of sovereign Israel. Israel makes great efforts to preserve and protect all holy sites.

What we take for granted today was prohibited under Jordanian rule prior to 1967. Access to Jews was denied and their holy places desecrated. This policy remains under Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority, Israel’s “Partner for Peace” in Bethlehem, Hebron and elsewhere (against Christian holy sites and Jewish holy sites).

So why are Israeli soldiers needed in areas under PA (Palestinian “Peace” Authority) rule? Because the less than one percent Jews found in Hebron today would be slaughtered mercilessly as they were by the Muslims in 1929. This is why a military presence is necessary.

Soldiers dancing in the streets of Hebron are no better than clowns in a circus. They do not help Israel’s efforts for Public Diplomacy and continue to harm and corrupt the image of the Jewish State. However, they did bring up an important point: Today, as in the past, Muslims demand various freedoms, yet are the first to deny them to everyone else.

This point-and often-counter-point presentation is sprinkled with humor and sadness and attempts to tackle serious and relevant issues of the day. The series began in 2008, appears both in print in the USA and on numerous websites and is followed regularly by readership from around the world.

In the series “Postcards from Israel,” Ari Bussel and Norma Zager invite readers throughout the world to join them as they present reports from Israel as seen by two sets of eyes: Bussel’s on the ground, Zager’s counter-point from home. Israel and the United States are inter-related – the two countries we hold dearest to our hearts – and so is this “point – counter-point” presentation that has, since 2008, become part of our lives.