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Not In My Name

An IDF spokesperson’s dismissal of a tragedy is the ultimate #moralfail

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Protesters run from a tear gas cannister in the day after Tamimi's death.(Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)

Most of us Israelis feel about our army units the way Americans feel about their colleges. When you’re 18 and you become a part of some large institution, you develop an affinity for it that lasts a lifetime. When someone tarnishes its reputation, you reel.

This is what happened to me this weekend.

On Friday, a young Palestinian man, Mustafa Tamimi, participated in a demonstration against the seizure of lands by a nearby Jewish settlement, Halamish. (Israeli courts had deemed the seizure illegal, but never mind.) Shortly after the demonstration began, Tamimi was struck by a tear gas canister fired at close range (in violation of the army’s rules of engagement) by an IDF soldier. Later that weekend, Tamimi died. His death saddened and enraged me. But what really made my blood boil was, of all things, a tweet.

The tweeter was Peter Lerner, a career officer in my alma mater, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. He wrote: “What was Mustafa thinking running after a moving jeep while throwing stones? #Fail.”

When I served in the unit—which, fortunately, was before Lerner had arrived—I was trained to realize that as the official voice of the army, I had to remain courteous, considerate, and factual. I was told—as if I needed to be told!—that special restraint was called for when dealing with death and injury, and that no matter what the specifics of a given incident might have been, compassion and care were always of the essence. Calling Tamimi “Mustafa,” as if he was a wayward boy; linking to a photo of him lying dying on the ground; attaching the familiar, casual hashtag, “#fail,” as if the whole thing belonged on some hilarious Internet catalogue of goofs and blunders: all of that is inexcusable.

But even leaving behind the moral implications of Lerner’s statement, I find it inconceivable that a spokesperson might think that the best way to speak, officially and publicly, would be by making sport of a human being’s death. That Lerner is still employed makes me deeply ashamed of my unit; but as long as Lerner has a job, I hope you’ll join me in letting him know what you think of his sensibilities. His Twitter handle is @MajPeterLerner; some hashtags you might consider include #utterdisregardforhumanlife, #shameonyou, and, my favorite, #moralfail.

Palestinian Shot With Tear Gas Canister Dies [WP]

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The #fail tag was indeed inexcusable. But his mocking tone aside, he has a point. The bulk of the press is reporting this as the death of a nonviolent protestor. He shouldn’t have been killed for throwing stones, firing tear gas at close range is unjustifiable, inexcusable, and just plain wrong under these circumstances, but throwing rocks isn’t merely participating in a demonstration. Chanting, marching, occupying, parading, etc., these are demonstrations. Throwing rocks is a violent act intended to hurt someone.

Could we please not portray this guy Tamimi as some kind of innocent civilian? He was throwing rocks at IDF troops – they had every right to defend themselves. Major Lerner probably shouldn’t have been so mocking, but I don’t see anything tragic in this event.

Social media is only as good as we make it. Every day on Twitter I have to block and report for spam another raft of junk. What many people do not seem to understand is that their random, pithy, snarky thoughts are almost always best left unwritten. Even if you aren’t interested in showing an ounce of compassion, do you have use your 140 characters to insult, to increase the divide? What Peter Lerner does not seem interested in to judge (unfairly I admit) from his tweet is showing any interest in the pain of his enemies. So many shames all around.
James LaForest

Lets be clear. The person killed was the enemy, and he was violently attacking IDF troops. 2 months ago a rock throwing resulted in the death of Israelis. He has nothing to apologize about

ben Dish says:

is trolling. Please ban him.

FreeThinker says:

I think #fail applies to Palestinians in general. Considering their long history of failing at building a normal state because they’re busy trying to destroy a neighboring one. #Moralfail is even more appropriate, especially for the rock throwing “protestors”, like the guys who killed a young Israeli and his baby son a few weeks ago using that pure non-violent approach of throwing large stones at people.


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Not In My Name

An IDF spokesperson’s dismissal of a tragedy is the ultimate #moralfail

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