Friday, July 4, 1997

Why Lior Cohen was burned and nearly killed by an Arab Pipe Bomb

Why Lior Cohen was burned and nearly killed by an Arab Pipe Bomb
July 4, 1997

Point number one: The soldiers serving in Hebron are wonderful people who do whatever they are allowed to do to provide security in the city.

Point number two:  When an Arab tosses a bomb at an Israeli, the responsibility is his. There may be a chain of command - he might be ‘following orders,’ be they direct or indirect. But the immediate accountability is that of the perpetrator.   

But we all know that life is not so simple. The buck doesn’t stop there. The following story is not a fable or fairy tale. It is true. I am not divulging the full names of the people involved for reasons of security, but the rest is a real-life narrative:

Last Saturday the rioting in Hebron reached the porches, patios, and windows of buildings in the Beit Hadassah Complex. Beit Schneerson, Beit Hadassah, Beit Castel and Beit Hasson were bombarded for a good part of the day. As was reported by the Hebron Press Office, IDF security forces were refused permission to react in any way, shape or form until the ‘high command’ realized that Hebron’s Jewish residents were about to initiate self-defense procedures. Only then were the soldiers allowed to respond, in a dwarfed manner.

The next day one of Hebron’s leadership (called here A) attempted to speak with one of the IDF command officers (called here Colonel G) in Hebron, to clarity the reasons for the army’s lack of response, in the face of real danger to both the civilian and military persons in the city.  The particular officer sought out was unavailable. So, Hebron’s A called a much higher official, with overall responsibility for Hebron, as well as other areas in Judea and Samaria. This official (let’s call him General O) was astounded at the question. He said he know nothing about abnormal or serious rioting in Saturday, but would check it out. The next day, after the bomb blast injured three Israeli soldiers, General O was in Hebron and met Hebron leader A. The general had harsh words for A: “My investigation shows that nothing happened. You are making up stories.”  Hebron’s A requested that Colonel G join the conversation, and he affirmed the general’s allegations.  So Hebron’s A asked the general if he knows Hebron resident, Rabbi M. General O had only words of praise for the rabbi. “So,” said A, “you can rely on what he says - you know he doesn’t exaggerate?” General O shook his head in full agreement. The three men, two officers and Hebron’s A, walked over to speak with Rabbi M. Rabbi M was very busy at the moment, but agreed to put aside his immediate business to deal with the matter at hand. Hebron leader A requested that the Rabbi (who lives in Beit Hadassah) depict exactly what he had experienced on Saturday. As the Rabbi described the blatant attack on Beit Hadassah, on the danger, and the inaction of Israel’s security forces, General O’s complexion turned to a shade of green, similar to the uniform he wears. He finally turned to Colonel G and asked, “What’s going on here?” Colonel G opened his diary, checked the date in question and answered, “that’s not the report I received. It should be looked into.” With that the conversation ended.

In other words, the true account of what actually happened in Hebron on Saturday was filtered out. The general, with overall responsibility for Hebron didn’t know what had gone on, because he wasn’t told. Colonel G simply didn’t tell him. When the subject was investigated Colonel G lied.  Only when the Rabbi related the day’s events did the General realize that he had been deceived. 

It is most important to know that the buck doesn’t stop here either. Colonel G shouldn’t be in charge of a Hebron command  - he is a liar. General G also has responsibility - he has to be assured that he KNOWS exactly what is happening in Hebron. But the buck goes higher up - much higher.  It reaches up to General Uzi Dayan and Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai because they are issuing the direct orders forbidding the IDF to take action against the rioters. Colonel G may be a liar, but his orders to his soldiers to stand like wooden statues in the face of rocks, fire bombs, and pipe bombs arrive on his desk from the office of Uzi Dayan and Yitzhak Mordechai. Colonel G should, under the circumstances, take off his uniform and refuse to accept such orders. Abandonment of soldiers is not only morally wrong. It is criminal. But the direct responsibility is that of Dayan and Mordechai. These two men have intentionally decided that soldiers in the IDF are a necessary ‘sacrifice for peace.’ After all, if the natives get too restless, all hell might break loose. So, it is preferable that a few soldiers get hurt, burned, blown-up, or maybe even killed, rather than rock the boat by stopping the daily violence in Hebron (and Gazza, for that matter.)

Today, after an ultimatum was issued to the PA by the Defense Minister, Israeli soldiers took an unparalleled measure - they apprehended a few of the rock-throwers. The result - the rioting stopped. A special unit was used to implement the capture of the perpetrators, and the consequences were immediate. Of course, the question might be asked - why didn’t they do this a month ago? That however, might be too difficult to answer.

Uzi Dayan - an instigator of Oslo and one of it’s prime authors, should be court-marshaled and thrown out of the army. Any general who abandons his soldiers is a contemptible.  Yitzhak Mordechai should either change his decision-making priorities real fast, or vacate his office for someone who cares about his soldiers, more than he cares about Yassir Arafat. And Colonel G should be made a private and sent to do guard duty - maybe he could handle that.

Finally, if the point hasn’t been made clear enough, Lior Cohen’s injury was the direct result of criminal negligence. The fact the he was stationed in the path of Arab terror, without being afforded the opportunity to stop it before it struck , the fact that no precautions were taken to allow him or his brethren to defend themselves was clearly and definitely caused by the inaction of his superiors.  This is inexcusable and unacceptable.

Israel’s soldiers are not sacrifices on the alter of peace. They are in a tough position and deserve all the support possible.  Israel’s leaders are supposed to be granting them that  - not abandoning them.  Those who aren’t capable of guaranteeing our soldier’s lives, as much as possible, don’t deserve public support, either in the military or the government. I hope both General Dayan and Minister Mordechai get the message fast, before anyone else is hurt.

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