Sunday, December 24, 2017

Lights, camera, patrol and today - by Maj. Gen. (ret.) Gershon Hacohen

...This is the doctrine of proportionality in use of force as it was taught in the early years of the agricultural communities in the Galilee. This is the answer to anyone who expects the unchecked use of force. IDF soldiers and officers are trained in this approach and for the most part, work to implement it with admirable success.

Maj. Gen. (ret.) Gershon Hacohen..
Israel Hayom..
22 December '17..

Footage of run-of-the-mill clashes in the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh happened to capture an IDF officer getting smacked in the face by a teenaged girl. That night, the girl was arrested at her home. The incident could have ended there.

Neither the girl nor the camera made the incident into a hot topic for the media. It was us – our fearfulness, our inability to accept the event as another case of something we know well, like one more tree falling in a Siberian forest. The events can and should be judged as humiliating. But the moment the images were published, we could have used them to our advantage. If the soldiers should have responded differently or more effectively, the matter could have been left to the IDF and its commanders, since the incident was not a complex one and they could certainly have drawn the proper conclusions from it. What is interesting and should be examined is our response and the media's probing, sobbing focus on it that blew the event completely out of proportion.

Whoever controls the plane of consciousness has the power to shape physicality, and this is where our story begins – between ourselves. On both sides of the Right-Left divide, there are those who are trying to light a fire. One side is trying to emphasize the "laxity" of the soldiers' response as an indication of "loss of deterrence," while the other wants to underscore the pointlessness of the ongoing occupation as a burden that forces our soldiers into constant exhaustion from ongoing policing missions that it would be best not to undertake in the first place.

We go round and round this same argument. It's been 30 years since the outbreak of the First Intifada. We should admit that this challenge is not ours alone. Something fundamental and global has changed in warfare: civilians and security forces clashing; soldiers and police operating on urban turf, in full view of cameras, has become everyone's lot. While commander of the IDF Military Colleges, I and a number of other Israeli officers were guests of the Rio de Janeiro police force. The emotional and visual aspects of the struggle there to instill law and order in the poor neighborhoods seemed completely familiar.

The immigrant neighborhoods of Stockholm and Paris present a similar challenge, much like violent street crime in the U.S. In the new era, all military organizations are forced to handle police tasks, as well: French and Belgian paratroopers are deployed on security missions in Paris and Brussels. In one NATO meeting, European generals complained about this, repeated the same old refrain that seemed to be longing for the days of the Cold War, when "a soldier was a soldier, not a police officer or a diplomat." Here in Israel, too, ever since the First Intifada, military analysts and senior officials in the defense establishment have argued that police operations divert the military vanguard from its main purpose of leading a victorious offensive in wartime.

"As in previous conflicts, it will be the regular army that is sent in to win, as well," military correspondent Alon Ben-David argued in Maariv in 2015. "But the regular army is now worn out by policing the territories and guarding the borders, rather than training and being a force that knows how to maneuver rapidly and win," Ben-David wrote.

A comparative examination of the British Army sheds a completely different light on this issue. The wealth of experience the British amassed during their empire days gave British soldiers a generalized, hybrid approach to the use of military force. Throughout the years of fighting terrorism in Belfast, the British saw in the practical experience of both clashes and policing an opportunity to improve battle readiness as well as the principles of command and control in the lower ranks of the ground forces. True, when moving to a new arena of warfare, adjustments must be made, but the British paratroopers who fought in the Falklands War had no trouble. Quite the opposite.

True, soldiers are less skilled than police in handing police work that entails clashes with civilians. But Israel's police force is small and requires backup from military units, which is accepted practice in the most Western nations. The bifurcated perception that assigns the military the task of defending the country from a foreign enemy that crossed the border and the police the job of internal security belongs to a changing world order. In recent years, threats have moved to the home court, and the sovereign entity is obliged to use all the resources at its disposal, with the right mix of police officers and soldiers.

If we look at it like that, from a professional perspective, the occupation itself is not necessarily a burden. We should re-examine which operations routinely tax the IDF more in terms of forces, resources, and demand for the commanders' strategic focus: those in Judea and Samaria, where there is an ongoing occupation of and daily conflict with a civilian population, or in the Gaza Strip, where we have deployed – along a defined border – for a clash with Hamas as an organized army?

Indeed, from a professional-security perspective as well as my personal view that Judea and Samaria are part of our homeland, I want to see the occupation continue, particularly in Area C, which remained in our hands under the Oslo Accords. That is precisely why it is appropriate to maintain an appropriate level of use of force, in a manner that will not lead to out-of-control escalation. Col. Yaakov Hasdai once said, "It's not the occupation that corrupts, it's we who are corrupting the occupation."

It would behoove us, in this context, to study the insights of Hashomer, a Jewish defense group charged with protecting Jewish communities in prestate Israel prior to the establishment of the Haganah. Even in its early years, more than a century ago, Hashomer members were issued clear instructions on the use of force and restraint. The main rule was: "You must know how to defend yourself and strike a blow, but never kill." Avraham Shapira, the legendary Hashomer member from Petach Tikva, would say, "I never killed, and I never got killed." Hashomer regulations state: "In any situation, it is better to offend an Arab's honor than harm his body.

Harming his property is preferable to bodily harm. It is better to use hand weapons than firearms, except in unusual instances. Do not use firearms in daylight. At night, firearms can be used, but every effort must be made to keep the weapon as [a tool of] deterrence" (Uziel Lev, "Bar-Giora and Hashomer").

Former minister Yigal Allon once told the story of how his father celebrated his 12th birthday by taking him along on guard duty at one of the fields of Kfar Tabor. They were lying on the ground at one side of a field, with a rifle and wooden baton. In the middle of the night, two Arabs arrived and began picking sackfuls of produce. Allon's father left him in charge of the rifle, and warned him, "Don't you dare fire it," and proceeded to ambush the two thieves and beat them with the baton. Allon said, "I was shaking with fear. He was alone and there were two of them, and I wasn't allowed to use the rifle." The Arabs dropped their sacks and fled.

The young Allon asked his father, "Why did you tell me not to fire?" and his father answered, "They were beaten. They'll tell the village about it. They won't come back here. If we had shot and killed them, the vengeance would go on and on."

Allon persisted: "If we aren't allowed to fire, why did we bring the rifle?" His father answered: "The rifle gave me the courage to attack them using only the club."

This is the doctrine of proportionality in use of force as it was taught in the early years of the agricultural communities in the Galilee. This is the answer to anyone who expects the unchecked use of force. IDF soldiers and officers are trained in this approach and for the most part, work to implement it with admirable success.

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