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Analysis: An army rebellion and a new Israeli national hero
Published Saturday 10/05/2014 (updated) 16/05/2014 12:11
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Uri Avnery is an Israeli peace activist, founder of Gush Shalom, and a former member of the Israeli Knesset.

Just before Israel's 66th Independence Day, the country acquired a new national hero. If it is true that every nation gets the national heroes it deserves, it was a rather worrying spectacle.

The video clip that turned David Adamov from an anonymous soldier into a national figure was taken with a Palestinian camera in Hebron.

The clip starts with the scene in Hebron. In the middle of Shuhada street stands a solitary soldier with a green beret and a rifle. He looks like any soldier, with the short beard now in vogue among Israeli youngsters.

Some kind of discussion develops between the soldier and elderly Palestinians in the street. But the camera turns to a Palestinian teenager, unarmed, who approaches the soldier, pushing his face very close to him and touching his shoulder with his hand.

The soldier reacts angrily, swinging his rifle. At this moment, another teenager enters the frame and passes the soldier from behind.

The soldier, obviously feeling threatened, swings around and cocks his rifle, ready to shoot. Threatening both teenagers, he tries to kick one, all the time uttering a stream of foul language. Then he notices the photographer, orders him to to stop filming and curses his mother in the most vulgar terms. End.

This clip was shown that evening on all three main Israeli TV channels.

For those of us who know the reality in the West Bank, there was nothing special about it. Scenes like this happen all the time. If the soldier does not kill anyone, it's just routine. If he does kill, the army announces that an investigation has been opened. Generally that is the last anyone hears of it.

What was special is that the whole scene was photographed and broadcast. Army orders forbid soldiers to behave like this when photographers are present, and especially to threaten the cameramen. Painful experience has taught the army that such clips, if broadcast abroad, can seriously undermine Israeli propaganda (officially called "explaining").

Even more unusual was the announcement of the Army Spokesman that same evening, that the soldier had been judged by his superiors and sent to army prison for 28 days.

'The army lost control'

All hell broke loose. The social media sprang into action. Hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands of soldiers declared their solidarity with the soldier who became known as "David Nahlawi."

("Nahal" is an army unit founded originally by David Ben-Gurion to further his idea of combining army service with "pioneering" agricultural work. Hence the green beret. The idea is as dead as Ben-Gurion himself, and the unit is now an ordinary infantry brigade. The ending "awi" is Arabic adopted by Hebrew slang.)

Many soldiers, including officers, flooded the internet with photos of themselves hiding their faces behind self-made signs saying "I am David Nahlawi." Some did not even bother to hide their faces.

After 24 hours the number of pro-David "likes" passed a hundred thousand, most of them posted by soldiers. It was the first military mass rebellion in the annals of the Israeli army. In some armies, it would be called a mutiny, punishable by death.

Faced by a totally new situation, for which it was quite unprepared, the army lost control. It published a statement coming close to an apology.

The Army Spokesman, it appeared, had been mistaken. David was not sentenced to prison for threatening to kill Palestinians (perish the thought!), but for something that happened a few hours before the incident: David had beaten up his direct commander and another soldier. The Hebron incident had not yet been investigated, and therefore David had not yet been judged for it.

There was another correction. In the first day after the clip was shown, the news spread that one of the Palestinian youths had been carrying a knuckle-duster, a clear proof of his aggressive intention and of the danger the soldier found himself in. Then the media carried a correction: an analysis of the clip showed that there was no knuckle-duster or any other weapon. It was just a string of Muslim prayer-beads.

The incident raises a number of questions, each more serious than the other.

The first and obvious one: why did the army send a lone soldier to guard a street crossing in the middle of Hebron on his own, a town where supreme tension rules even on the quietest of days?

Hebron is clustered around the "Tombs of the Patriarchs" which harbor the graves of Abraham and Sarah, which, like the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, are holy to both Jews and Muslims. 160,000 Muslims daily confront the few hundred fanatical Jews and Jewesses who have settled there, and who openly declare that their aim is to bring about the expulsion of all Muslims from the entire city.

Hebron is Apartheid City. The main street where the incident took place (appropriately called in Arabic "martyr’s street") is closed to Arabs. Incidents can break out any time.

So why did the local military send a lone 19-old soldier to guard a street there?

Any soldier, even a normal one, sent to do guard duty alone in a dangerous place, may easily panic. In the clip David definitely looks frightened.

'The essence of occupation'

But David is not an ordinary soldier. According to the army itself, just a few hours before he was sent to this post, he attacked his superior and a comrade, beating them up in what sounds like a hysterical rampage. A few hours later, after already being sentenced to prison, he was sent out on this lonely task.

It is not the sane judgment of Private David that is in doubt, but the sanity of the officer who ordered him there.

The whole situation goes far beyond the dimensions of a local incident, which happily ended without victims.

It shows the reality of the occupation, in which a population of millions of human beings is living without defense and rights, completely dependent upon the mercies of every single soldier.

This Israeli army is no worse than any other. It is a mirror of its society, composed of the humane and the sadists, the sane and the mentally disturbed, rightists and leftists, Ashkenazi and Oriental. Judging from his family name (Adamov) David Nahlawi seems to be of Bukharan origin, the Oriental side of the immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

Suheib Abu-Najma, the 15-year old Arab boy involved who looks even younger, was lucky. A Palestinian of any age, walking in any street, cannot be sure what kind of soldier he will come across, and what his mood may be. His life may depend on it.

That is the essence of occupation.

But the significance of the incident goes far, far beyond these lessons. It is revolutionary -- in the original sense. For the first time in the history of Israel, and perhaps of the world, the internet is providing the basis for a rebellion of the soldiers against the army.

One may consider the mutiny on the battleship Potemkin in Odessa, 1905, or the uprising of the Petrograd garrison of February 1917, in order to compare it to the totally different situation in today’s world of the internet. Now, in less than 24 hours, hundreds of thousands of soldiers can openly defy the army command, turning the army into an empty vessel.

Once this has been shown, the mutinous capabilities of the social media are unlimited. It puts an end to the sacred assumption that the army obeys the civilian elected authority. It also puts an end to the assumption that a military coup can only be carried out by a junta of senior officers, the "clonels." Now simple soldiers, incited by some rabble-rousers, can do it.

Benyamin Netanyahu was left, literally, speechless (something very unusual for him). So was Moshe Ya'alon, the Defense Minister, a former incompetent Chief of Staff. So was the present Chief of Staff, Benny Ganz, who in this crisis was shown to be helpless.

In the specific situation of Israel, this is extremely dangerous. Of course, it is easy to imagine a Potemkin-like situation, where the simple soldiers rise up against the brass in the name of equality, but that is sheer fantasy. With the army rank and file composed of teenagers, who are indoctrinated from the age of three in the spirit of Jewish victimhood and superiority (both), such a rebellion, if it occurs, is bound to be right-wing, perhaps even fascist.

Until this week, such a rebellion seemed impossible. When Ariel Sharon deployed the army in 2005 to evict a few thousand settlers from the Gaza Strip, no soldier dared to refuse. Now, with the capabilities of the social media, the story could end quite differently. The next time the army is ordered to remove a settlement, there may be mass refusal carried by the internet.

There is a message in this for every army in the world. A new historical era has begun. Any army can rebel by internet.

Army prisoner David Adamov can be proud of himself.

The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect Ma'an News Agency's editorial policy.
1 ) Sander / The Netherlands
11/05/2014 12:48
This shows the reality of the Isra?li occupation, in which a population of millions of human beings is living without defense and rights, completely dependent upon the mercies of every single soldier. Occupation has to be ended to save the people from insanity and inhumanity.

2 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
11/05/2014 14:56
No, Sander. This shows the reality that years of an internatinal Palestinian sponsored propaganda campaign has managed to seduce dupes like you. What pathetic comments you have devoid of reality. You appear to be "completely dependent" on the flow of anti-Israel propaganda. I strongly suggest you get some additional news sources to connect you with the facts.

3 ) ronen / israel
11/05/2014 16:39
what about the guy with the knuckles? how many articles about this will the "justice seekers" publish without mentioning this little fact? if a guy came behind me with knuckles in this situation i would open fire right there

4 ) "Israel's Iron Hand" / ISR
11/05/2014 17:43
Mr. Avnery "forgot" to mention that the the all scene was a planned provocation by Palestinian youth armed with camera. I wonder would be the result, if they would have done that to an American soldier in Iraq?

5 ) Mel / USA
11/05/2014 18:25
Great job Uri! Encore!On reading "Breaking The Silence"(Bet Selem)testimonies from Jewish soldiers(Ashkenazi & Mizrahi)it's obvious many realize they're indoctrinated B4 conscription during a very naive,idealistic & eager to please,age & end up with PTSD,conscience dilemma's.Many Nahal are Zionism's peons to brutalize non-Jews.But many fear JEWISH extremists MORE than occupied non-Jews! Israel is having a national psychotic break!It's youth BURIED ALIVE under Nazi-Zionism,just as Palestine is!

6 ) Outlier / USA
11/05/2014 18:42
These soldiers behave like this on camera , imagine off camera . You notice how Israeli society trying to cover up for the soldiers . It's a national game they play . Majority of the population are off duty military personell, Israel has nothing but an army and brutal soldiers pointing guns at women and children , the indigenous occupied Palestinian people .

7 ) Steve / USA
11/05/2014 19:26
"Scenes like this happen all the time. If the soldier does not kill anyone, it's just routine. If he does kill, the army announces that an investigation has been opened. Generally that is the last anyone hears of it." I have heard this so many times. It proves to me, so how much, Israel is an apartheid state. It does not treat each person equally. Israel knows how to skirt around the edges of the "law" and gets away with laws that make a democrat state a real one, not a facade.

8 ) JoeFattal / USA
11/05/2014 21:16
The army find itself walking the streets armed to their teeths in the occupy territories in a way unchallenge, except few arguments here and there by civilians, children, women and elderly, and by cameras. For the IDF its a boring way of life. The Palestinians not intimidated by the Jewish extremists remain fast against an army that is going nuts for lack of action. Sooner or later they will ask, who are we fighting, and what for. The day might come that Jews will wage war on Israel.

9 ) Colin Wright / USA
12/05/2014 19:33
To Roenen #3: 'what about the guy with the knuckles? how many articles about this will the "justice seekers" publish without mentioning this little fact? if a guy came behind me with knuckles in this situation i would open fire right there.' Typical Zionist. The article itself points out that the 'knuckles' were the usual Zionist fabrication. Try reading -- it's educational!

10 ) Colin Wright / USA
12/05/2014 19:35
To Brian Cohen #2: 'No, Sander. This shows the reality that years of an internatinal Palestinian sponsored propaganda campaign...' Give credit where credit is due, that's what I always say. Not that I agree with your post -- it's the usual Zionist sludge of lies. However, you got through it without saying anything egregiously idiotic, which is a first for you.

11 ) Robert / US
17/05/2014 10:01
#2 Whats wrong Brian, cant handle the truth ? Hey I read the other day an Israeli here is in trouble for running US military items, last name Cohen any relation ?.
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