Monday, January 24, 2005

Weapons-confiscation is only the beginning

January 24, 2005

There are those who believe that we are paranoid. How could we possibly suspect the Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, or any of his underlings, of attempting to diminish our security? Rubbish!
Well, last Thursday, the civilian head of Hebron's security apparatus, Yoni Bleichbard, who is EMPLOYED by the Defense Ministry, received a phone call from an officer in the Hebron brigade. She notified Yoni that his weapon's license, permitting him to carry an M-16 rifle, had been voided and that he was now classified as 'weapons-negated.' The reason: unknown. The source of the decision: somewhere up there – Central Command or higher. The result: yesterday, Yoni was forced to 'return' his rifle to the authorities that be. In other words, Hebron's security chief is forbidden to carry the primary tool of his trade, that tool which is used to offer protection and defense, should the need arise, to any of the Hebron community's hundreds of residents or thousands of visitors.
So, you might ask, perhaps Yoni is a suspected criminal, and is too dangerous to be allowed to walk around with a weapon. Perhaps, except that Yoni has not been recently arrested, indicted, tried or convicted of any serious crimes. Not only isn't Yoni suspected of "Jewish terrorism." To the contrary. He has proven his heroism. Two years ago, when terrorists struck, killing twelve men, including nine officers and soldiers, and three Kiryat Arba civilians, Yoni was one of the first people on the scene, and put his life on the line to save others. Working together with other security personnel, Yoni attempted to weed out the attacking Arab murderers, while also intentionally putting himself in the line of fire, carrying wounded out of the battle zone. It is difficult to image greater courage or bravery.
Yet, late last week Yoni was notified that he is relieved of his weapon.
However, Yoni shouldn't feel too bad. Actually, he is in good company. He wasn't the only one ordered to hand in his rifle. So too were the security officers of Yeshivat Shavei Hevron, Kiryat Arba and southern Hebron Hills community Ma'ale Hever.
But don't let anyone tell you that this is political. Of course not. It's strictly security-related. For sure.
For general background purposes: It should be clear. First of all, our security is in the hands of the Almighty. Without Him, nothing would help. That having been said, practically speaking, our day-to-day security is deposited with multi-branched Israeli security forces, divided between the army, the police, the border police, intelligence, etc. It is their job to make sure we are safe. That is, of course, a collective 'we,' basically including all citizens of the State of Israel. In Hebron, and throughout Judea, Samaria and Gaza, the security presence is necessarily higher and perhaps more blatant than elsewhere. Due to the abundance of 'security activity,' the Defense Ministry, through the Israel Defense Forces, appoints local civilians, all of whom have served in combat units in the army, to work with them. These men work night and day, patrolling, organizing and training civilian emergency teams, coordinating emergency medical needs, and also act as pipelines between the residents of their communities and local military commanders. I can personally testify to the fact that Yoni Bleichbard works from very early in the morning to very late at night, and is virtually always on call, seven days a week. At the very least, a walkie-talkie, beeper, and cell phone are always at hand. And up until yesterday, an M-16.
To be clear: weapons in Yesha are, unfortunately, the norm. I can remember, when I first came to Israel in 1974, seeing men my age walking around the streets of Jerusalem with Uzis (the pre-M-16 era). It was, for me, coming from suburbia USA, a very strange sight and it took me a long long time to get used to it. Seeing a pistol on a cop's belt, no big deal. But an automatic machine gun in the hands of 19 and 20 year olds, in the middle of Jerusalem – it blew my mind.
However, over the years I learned. There is little, if any, choice. People have to be ready to defend themselves. Just as a person in a jungle must be armed for reasons of self-protection, always prepared for a lion, tiger, or any other four-legged wild animal, so too, Israelis must be ready, except that here the beasts have only two legs. In Yesha, over the years, civilians may apply to carry weapons via the Interior ministry or through defense channels. The latter may license and issue an Uzi, M-16, or other such weapons, to properly prepared civilians, all of whom have either served in the army or have undergone weapons training.
Despite leftist claims of Yesha-residents 'militancy,' I can assuredly state that an overwhelming majority of weapons-licensed civilians, probably even more than a majority, somewhere in the 90 percent plus category, have never ever used their rifles, excepting army-regulated target practice. As opposed to our Arab neighbors, with very few exceptions, Israeli civilians do not use their guns to randomly attack; rather a weapon is a means of self-defense only. In this sense, guns save lives – Jewish lives.
It is possible that the confiscation orders concerning Yoni's weapon, and those of the other three security personnel mentioned, is a mistake. Mistakes do happen. However, that assumption is, in my book, very naïve. Somebody is playing games with us – and with our lives. Four Hebron-area security chiefs aren't ordered to hand over their weapons 'just like that.' And it certainly wouldn't surprise me if the orders originate very high up.
Years ago, following the Rabin assassination, I wrote a couple of articles dealing with 'Witch-hunts.' Anyone who remembers that time period knows that it was excruciatingly difficult. Yet I presently have a feeling that the post-Rabin witch-hunts will be nothing compared with what Sharon has in store for us – and weapons-confiscation is only the beginning.
With blessings from Hebron.

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