Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon
Photo: Ido Erez
I met Yoni Chetboun, the young Knesset member from Habayit Hayehudi, for the first time on the eve of the elections on one of the political programs on Channel 1. Chetboun, a political wheeler and dealer at the time, recited his party's campaign slogans: He spoke of camaraderie, the IDF and how Habayit ayehudi is everyone's home. Catchy and comfortable phrases, similar to those one hears at a youth movement gathering. When the program ended we spoke about the haredi-nationalist bloc within his party. It appeared he was closer to this bloc than to party leader Naftali Bennett.
Some two months ago, when MK Chetboun initiated an amendment to the libel law so that IDF soldiers would be able to sue those who spread modern blood libels, I supported him. Since the 5th Brigade launched its campaign against director Mohammed Bakri over his dubious film "Jenin Jenin," I learned about the limitations of the existing law. Those who paid the price for Operation Defensive Shield and Operation Cast Lead were the IDF soldiers. Leftists naturally claimed that the amendment violates freedom of speech. In my opinion, the ability to slander and lie without the fear of legal repercussions violates other basic rights. Truth and justice are important also in a democracy that knows how to allow extremist views.
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I recently received a leaflet distributed last week among the neighbors of GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, in Moshav Nir Banim. Titled "Know your neighbor," the flyer lists several statements attributed to Alon (he did not make all of the listed statements), as well as accusations of "arbitrariness" with regards to the evacuation of Jewish outposts in the West Bank.
He has also come under fire for his policies aimed at containing rather than crushing Palestinian stone and firebomb-throwing to reduce the number of Palestinians killed in rioting.
The distributors of these pamphlets are not alone. Among the settlers there are leaders and public opinion leaders who are acting just like the reckless settlers. One of them recently published an article explaining that Alon hates settlers. Such statements are usually heard in the hallucinatory fringes of the Right. The argument over the use of force in the West Bank is legitimate in my eyes. The escalation on the ground creates an operational dilemma. The attacks on Alon, on the other hand, are dangerous.
Over the past few years I've invested quite a lot of time in dealing with the absurd of the extremist leftist groups which attack the IDF as part of the delegitimization campaign against Israel. My most prominent partners are rightists. The distorted discourse in the international community bothers us. But now, the hypocrisy is coming from the settler camp.
Alon's detractors do not point an accusatory finger at the defense minister from the Likud, who is behind Israel's policy in the West Bank, or at the prime minister, who supports a "two states for two people" solution and is therefore seeking calm. Instead, they chose an easy target – the general who protects the Jewish communities in the West Bank.
Most of the settler leaders I have spoken with recently support Alon and denounce the attacks against him. But most of them also remain silent; as do most of the public opinion leaders from the Right.
Those who are waiting for a leader to take responsibility will most likely be disappointed. In his victory speech following the elections, Naftali Bennett said he would not allow anyone to harm IDF soldiers and commanders. Yet, a few months later, the Chetboun's of his party have fallen silent, and his voice is not heard either.
Making statements in support of Alon means losing popularity. My Facebook page is a testament to this. Apparently, those who view themselves as leaders in the Right are not willing to pay this price.