Was the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre still giddy from the GOP pickin’ off some Jewish votes? Or, was the life of the party all shikkered up when he donned his Guns n’Moses tee and ran through the snow waving his Israeli flag with an assault rifle embroidered over King David’s starshield? No sooner had Little Wayne cocked his Glock, when he was dropped in his tracks – with words – by every minister and maven in Israel: No, Wayne. We are not your Wild West dream.
Meanwhile, plinkin’ away here in the Mile High was Intermountain Jewish News columnist Tehillah R. Goldberg, who put her personal angle on storied Israeland, home of tzedek-seeking high plains drifters. “I grew up in Israel, an armed society.” One where “responsible gun use is the norm,” and gun crimes are “practically unheard of.”
When purchasing the ubiquitous Israeli street food of falafel, it’s typical to see a row of IDF soldiers plus some random citizens standing alongside you with guns and assault weapons protruding from their back pockets. You don’t even bat an eyelash. If anything, you feel safer—because if a terrorist starts shooting, they can thwart an attack.”
Well, maybe. But Israel as a benignly armed society, is an anachronistic caricature from olden days. True, there have been occasions where alert, armed personnel in the right place and time have stopped attackers. Soldiers in a food-stand line, however, are in-transit or on break from patrol, and not on-the-watch. They’re tired, hungry, probably texting, maybe smoking. And, sadly, some of them are deeply troubled. Suicide is the leading cause of death in the Israeli Defense Forces. In 2006, the IDF adopted regulations causing more soldiers to lock their weapons on base during their weekend breaks. The suicide rate then dropped 40%, and the IDF is considering expanding the regulation.
Today, most Israelis have heard of Alumnesh Zalka, one of many victims from the surge of domestic gun crimes against women. Her partner, a private security guard, shot her eight times in the head, stomach, uterus and legs. Since the murderous terror attacks of the Second Intifada, armed security guards at restaurants, malls, supermarkets and the like have become commonplace, causing a proliferation of ‘guns on the kitchen table,’ and gun crime frequency that didn’t exist a dozen years ago. As a result – as well as from the Newtown school shootings –a special inquiry into Israel’s gun control regulations is being planned.
The law to do with firearms is from 1949″, says Yaakov Amit head of Israel’s Ministry of Public Security. “It’s been amended few times, but there’s an understanding in the Knesset that it needs further amendment and reorganization. We’re also checking to see if all places that are guarded now need to be. In the past because of the intifada and other issues yes, they did, but perhaps now many don’t.”
Amit describes Israel’s current gun licensing as restrictive, limited largely to people living or working in dangerous areas, and requiring multiple screenings and permit renewal every three years. Dangerous areas include Judea and Samaria (a.k.a. the West Bank), and the “random citizens” alongside writer Goldberg are, for the most part, Israeli residents of those areas. Israelis are quite aware of the increasing trend in violence – including gun violence – by some of their West Bank citizens against Palestinians. One study found that from September, 2004 through December, 2011, shootings killed 14 Palestinians and injured 100, among 3,700 separate incidents of violence. In June, 2012, the army confiscated weapons from a West Bank community’s rapid response team following shootings at Palestinians, and fearing ‘price-tag’ attacks against Palestinians coinciding with the government’s evacuation of three area outposts. Here and there are amateur videos purporting to show shooting incidents.
A most disturbing concern, all but ignored in the American Jewish media, is that some of those armed falafel customers might one day be aiming at each other. In 2008, Shin Bet leader Yuval Diskin reported that an investigation found a very high willingness among extremist West Bank settlers to use violence against other Israelis – “not just stones, but live weapons” — in order to derail a diplomatic peace process. Following attacks on the army a year ago, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz told National Security College graduates that “Jewish violence in the territories was ‘a dangerous reality,’” and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu added that a red line had been crossed: “We will not allow anyone to raise an arm against IDF soldiers and Israel Police officers. These people protect us all, and we will protect them.” Said MK Dan Meridor,
When the rule of law is being violated there is no end to the phenomenon. Some say ‘price tag’ acts against Arabs aren’t so bad because it’s against Palestinians. Then it’s being done in Israel and people say it’s not so bad because it’s against leftists. And now it’s being done against the army. This challenges the authority of the state and the government. Such violence against IDF soldiers must be met with a firm had and in accordance with the law.”
Let’s hope that Israel’s soldier vs. civilian conflict – with or without guns – remains practically unheard of. But not for lack of listening.
Amit, Y. (Head of Firearm Licensing Dept.), Gun Control in Israel a Short History
GunPolicy.org, Israel — Gun Facts, Figures and the Law