Cross posted from my Times of Israel blog
This August it will be 10 years since I was released from my mandatory military service and moved into the reserves. Due to the fact that I was serving in the IDF without any immediate family in the country I had the status of ‘lone soldier’. I was 25 when I completed my service. After my release I returned to London where the Mayor of the city at the time, Ken Livingstone, I was shocked when he said the following;
“If a young Jewish boy in this country goes and joins the Israeli army, and ends up killing many Palestinians in operations and can come back, that is wholly legitimate. But for a young Muslim boy in this country, who might think: I want to defend my Palestinian brothers and sisters and gets involved, he is branded as a terrorist. And I think it is this that has infected the attitude about how we deal with these problems.”
Two young Muslim boys did indeed want to defend their Palestinians brothers. They set out on a journey that took them through Syria, the West Bank and Gaza. Their journey ended on Tel Aviv beach in a bar called Mike’s Place. One of them succeeded in detonating the bomb strapped to his body, killing 3 people and wounding 50.
I had spent two years risking my life to stop suicide bombers yet here was the Mayor of London, a major political figure, arguing that there was no difference between the actions of the two British Muslims who had travelled to Israel to blow themselves up and myself. I had been stopping suicide bombers. They were suicide bombers. It seemed a pretty big difference to me. Yet according to Livingstone thinking there is a difference is a sign of an infected attitude. Livingstone didn’t explicitly say that he was talking about suicide bombers though he also said;
“The Palestinians don’t have jet planes, don’t have tanks, they only have their bodies to use as weapons.”
Up to this point in Operation Protective Edge three IDF servicemen with the status ‘lone soldier’ have been killed in action. Max Steinberg and Nissim Carmelli of the United States and Jordan Bensemhoun of France. Unfortunately, but predictably, their deaths led to several articles written about lone soldiers or a phenomenon al Jazeera refers to as “Jewish Jihadis”.
Hanine Hasan, has taken the opportunity to compare lone soldiers to Jihadi terrorists leaving the West to murder people;
Her name is Katie. She is from the Netherlands, and chose to serve in the Israeli navy instead of remaining in her country. Will her government label her and the rest of the hundreds of Dutch youth serving in the Israeli military as jihadstrijders (jihad fighters), the name given to the hundred or so that went to Syria? Katie, a Dutch-Israeli dual citizen, is after all a jihadist in occupied Palestinian lands.
Personally I think there is a very clear distinction. A Jihadi wants Jihad, a lone soldier wants to defend Israel. Muslims running off for Jihad are labelled as terrorists because when they arrive at their destination they risk their lives to fight against freedom, democracy and human rights in order to create an Islamic caliphate. The Jews running off to Israel are moving there to defend Israel. One is defending a country, the other is butchering people to impose a genocidal regime. Just like those two young Muslims did that night in Mike’s Place.
Of course you can argue that both a soldier in the IDF and a Jihadi in ISIS are similar. They both end up firing weapons, they are both carrying out military activities. But by this incredibly lax definition any soldier anywhere in the world is a Jihadi and the ideology they are promoting is irrelevant. This is bizarre.
Writing in Independent Voices Robert Fisk argues that Jews returning back to London after service in the IDF should be interrogated by police over possible war crimes. He says the following;
I trust that the Met is keeping its watch for all potential criminals, whether their foreign military organisations carry the terrorist label or not. I don’t know of any Palestinians who’ve been firing rockets at Israel and hold UK citizenship – Mr Plod should check them out too. But it would be very interesting to know if the British government is taking as close an interest as it should in any UK citizens – even if they have any other passports – who have been fighting in Israeli uniform in Gaza in the past couple of weeks.
In other words he is arguing that serving in Gaza as a soldier in the IDF right now is exactly the same as firing missiles at Israel from Gaza. He ignores the fact that there is only one reason to fire a missile at a civilian population centre in Israel. Killing civilians. The soldiers in the IDF are fighting in Gaza in order to stop these rockets from being fired. The death of Gazan civilians is not the objective of the operation it is a tragic outcome of the fight against Hamas.
Furthermore Fisk misunderstands why it is the Police are more interested in returning terrorists than returning IDF soldiers. Perhaps he should take a greater interest in what it is they do when they return home. Returning Jihadis include terrorists such as Mehdi Nemmouche. He spent a year fighting in Syria only to return to France and murder four people in a Jewish museum in Belgium. Then there is Mohammed Merah who spent time in Afghanistan before murdering four people in a Jewish school in Toulouse as well as three soldiers.
In the UK police are right to be concerned. they take British Jihadis fighting in Syria seriously when they threaten to execute people in Trafalgar Square. It is no surprise that they are waiting to interrogate them upon their return. It shouldn’t need to be said that Jews returning home haven’t threatened members of the security services or anyone else.
Despite the arguments made by Livingstone, Fisk and Hasan those Muslims going overseas to participate in Jihad weren’t and aren’t going in order to fight for freedom. They are going to fight for an Islamist ideology that would seek to destroy everything that people who believe in freedom and democracy hold dear. They have created the Islamist terror that we Israelis, Brits, French and people living in democracies all over the world face today. It has nothing to do with freedom, nor with freedom fighting. Unless you’re talking about people who view freedom as an enemy that needs to be destroyed. Soldiers in the IDF are currently fighting against that very same ideology in the form of Hamas. They are fighting for the freedom of Israelis to move freely in their own land.
When Fisk writes;
I don’t want to bump into a chap who’s been firing missiles at Christian families in Syria. But on the other hand, I also don’t want to bump into a chap who’s been firing tank shells into the homes of Palestinians in Gaza.
He shows that he is unable to differentiate between the actions of soldiers in the IDF and the Jihadi terrorists fighting to impose an Islamic caliphate on the world. By his own rationale he wouldn’t want to meet a British fighter pilot who dropped bombs on Afghan homes or an American soldier who had fired artillery shells in Iraq that had killed civilians there. Presumably he’s also arguing for the police to interrogate those servicemen upon arrival in Heathrow.
He ignores that the relevant argument is not what a soldier does but why they’re doing it and under what circumstances.
As the IDF fights Hamas in Gaza the soldiers doing the fighting are being compared to the very worst humanity has to offer. The fact that these comparisons are being made at all is bad enough, that they came about after three young men gave their lives for Israel is reprehensible. I am proud to have fought for my country against those who sought to murder as many of my people as they could. I am proud to have worn the same uniform as Max Steinberg, Nissim Carmelli and Jordan Bensemhoun and so many others who have fallen in defense of the Jewish state, blessed be their names.
The fighting is not yet over, we don’t know when that will happen. We do know that our soldiers have once again stepped into the breech to fight to protect us, the citizens of Israel against the Jihadis that so many seem so quick to promote.