What came over Itamar Alon? No one can answer with certainty what exactly caused Alonís sudden wild, murderous attack at a bank in Beíer Sheva. He took his secrets to the grave. But Alonís background provides several hints.
The height of Alonís success in his wretched life was his military service. Alon was an officer in the Israel Defense Forcesí Combat Engineering Corps and in the Border Police. His mother says he was a wonderful soldier. Everything following Alonís military service screams failure. From this it can be assumed that something went wrong somewhere along his way from the army and Border Police to civilian life. An isolated flickering of success occurred in 2002, when Alon, the security guard, killed a terrorist in his city. He received a letter of commendation for doing so.
In the Combat Engineering Corps, and principally in the Border Police, Alon learned not just how to use a weapon but to use it with ease. He served in the territories. That has singular significance: The Border Police is the sickest corps of the occupation administration. The reasons are sociological and ethnic and are linked to the background of most of its policemen −− Russians, Druze, Ethiopians and residents of Israelís geographic periphery, who are cynically and not coincidentally sent by Israel to be the spearhead of its violent rule over the Palestinians and who, not coincidentally, become extremely brutal.
In the Border Police, Alon learned not just how to shoot but how to behave rudely, violently and to solve problems with weapons while receiving respect and glory for doing so. The headline earlier this week that declared, ďThe hero that became a murderer,Ē is misleading. The line between hero and murderer in the territories is a very blurry one. Many cannot identify it, and there are those, like Officer Alon, who do not recognize the blurry boundary between the territories and Israel proper.
For Alon, the bastards changed the rules: What is almost allowed in Hebron is forbidden in Beíer Sheva. Not every alumnus of military service in the territories internalizes this lesson.
There is a thread that ties two other stories to Alonís: The same day that Alon fired at every passerby at the bank, another Border Police officer, Superintendent Nir Somech, was convicted of killing his neighbor, Ben Tal. Several weeks before that another soldier from the Border Police, Golan Cohen, killed his wife, Esther Avraham. One can of course dismiss these three incidents as coincidences. Itís also possible not to.
Following the killing spree at the bank, people are talking about changing the policy regarding civilian gun ownership. This, of course, is an important step but also relatively easy. Following every war, Israel is busy with its shell shock victims. At the same time, it ignores its other no less miserable victims, those of the violent service in the territories. Many of them, who killed, arrested, hit, injured and rudely broke into homes at the dead of night, walk among us. Most of them perhaps recover from their own shell shock, but not all. Perhaps Alon was one of these.
A report published several months ago by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs presented disturbing figures: 31 percent of Vietnam veterans, 10 percent of Gulf War veterans, 11 percent of Afghanistan veterans and 20 percent of Iraq war veterans were diagnosed as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Thirty percent of the 834,463 American veterans who received treatment in recent years from the department were diagnosed with PTSD.
Service in the territories is also a kind of war in terms of its mental consequences. It is always very violent. Prof. Yaakov Rofe, a mental disorder expert, wrote two days ago in Israel Hayom about Alon: ďHe was a man whose behavioral repertoire is characterized by violent activities and his past actions in the Border Police, which included shooting and violence. These kinds of people tend in moments of anger to vent their feelings through violence.Ē
Itís also worth remembering this when taking stock of the price of the occupation. Alon and his victims are part of this price. They too are victims of Israelís hostile actions.