An officer, not a gentleman
Lieutenant Colonel Shalom Eisner is a soldier’s soldier. The guy is a deputy commander of the Jordan Valley brigade in the Israeli army, an armored brigade trained to fight other armies, head to head, face to face. His whole life he’s been preparing to take on Syrian and Iraqi armored formations, not Danish peace activists.
The blow that Eisner delivered to the ISM activist is a Krav Maga blow that recruits are taught in their first week of basic training. It’s what you’re supposed to do if you’re face to face with your enemy; it’s what you’re trained to do if you find yourself in hand to hand combat, when the bullets are out, or you’re too close to your enemy to shoot, if the enemy and you are at each other’s throats, on death ground, and there is nothing left to do but fight for your life. It’s a last-ditch move you perform on Syrian troops, Hezbollah guerrillas, Hamas gunmen. It’s not a move you pull against unarmed activists, no matter how provocative they are. Eisner’s life was not in danger. At most, his fingers were fractured. He was pissed off and he lost his cool. But he shouldn’t have even been there in the first place.
In fact, a deputy commander of an armored brigade of any army shouldn’t ever be placed in a situation where he’s in the position to be face to face with an unarmed protestor. The deputy commander of a fighting brigade should be out in the field preparing his troops for war against armies, guerrilla groups, terrorists, border infiltrators etc. Unarmed provocateurs need to be met by the Border Police, especially in areas like the Jordan Valley and around Palestinian towns. The Police are trained to deal with disturbances. The Police are trained to subdue, contain, detain. You wouldn’t send a police unit against a Syrian armored division, so why send an armored brigade officer against unarmed protestors?
In the Saluki battle in the Second Lebanon War Eisner extracted troops under fire. In battle, and under fire, he showed cool judgment and bravery. Faced with unarmed provocateurs, facing their taunts, he lost control and lost his judgment. His military career is probably now over, and this is a shame, as he’s probably the kind of fighter you’d want to have on a proper battlefield. But on the modern battlefield of cameras, YouTube and Twitter, he’s not the kind of man you want.
Lieutenant Colonels in Armored Brigades are trained to kill, destroy, vanquish. It’s as simple as that. By the way, Eisner’s blow is just one of a sequence of Krav Maga blows that recruits learn. The blow that Eisner delivered, textbook style, could have been followed by at least 4 others in the sequence, which are designed to completely demobilize an enemy, perhaps even kill him. The fact that Eisner lost his cool and ‘reverted to type’ and his training, is an indication that the soldier was not mentally prepared for his mission against the ISM. He shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Eisner is a man the IDF wants in the field to face his opposite numbers in the Syrian army, the Iranian army, or Hezbollah. He is a soldier, a killer if he needs to be. The IDF does not want Eisner in a lose-lose situation where the battle is against peaceful protestors armed with cameras.
Until the army learns this lesson, no amount of sensitivity training, media awareness training, or damage control, is going to fix the problem.