Opinion: What Should Israeli Police Do When Called “Nazi”?


israeli_police_1By Nachum Barnea 

During one of the protests over the mother unfairly accused of starving her child, a uniformed Army Radio reporter emerged out of the masses. He was livid with anger. “They called me Nazi,” he told his colleagues. “Their chutzpa is unbelievable. How dare they?”

 I felt for him. Regardless of the ancient question of why the IDF employs its soldiers in journalistic jobs, and when will we see a brave defense minister end this longtime anomaly, the soldier was right to feel insulted, both on the personal and national level.

 The ease with which protestors hurl the word “Nazi” at any person wearing a uniform, be it green or blue, is intolerable. It is no less infuriating, and possibly more so, than the soiled diapers hurled at police officers.

 What is the proper way to respond to an insult? This question has stirred up great emotion in America in recent days. Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates returned to his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the door was jammed, and he had to break into his own house. A neighbor called the police. When the officers arrived, Gates presented ID that showed he lives in the house. Such incidents usually end with a handshake, but Gates was arrested.

 The reason, according to the police report, was that he told one of the police officers: “I’ll speak with your mama outside.” The reason, according to Gates, is the color of his skin. Gates is black, while the officer, Sergeant James Crowley, is white.

 The incident turned into a national affair because of Barack Obama’s reaction. In a press conference, the president said that the police acted “stupidly.” The statement prompted renewed suspicions regarding Obama’s loyalties: Is he concerned for law and order in America, or only for the wellbeing of blacks?

 Obama consulted with his wife and immediately issued a retraction. Now, they’re all good guys in his view – the police officers and the professor. A three-way reconciliatory meeting will be held at the White House soon.

 Yet the question of what should be done to a person who insults law enforcement officials remained open. The New York Times, which looked into the issue, had trouble drawing conclusions. “Police departments issue their officers Kevlar vests to stop bullets, and thick helmets,” the paper wrote, “but there is nothing in the equipment room to give a cop thicker skin.”

 The police officers interviewed for the piece made a distinction between a private insult and one uttered publically. They are willing to sustain face-to-face insults, but felt they must respond to public insults.” You don’t get paid to be publicly abused,” said one officer. “”We have to remain in control. We’re running the show,” said another. I heard similar sentiments expressed a few years ago in a briefing to riot police in Yerushalayim.

 It appears that everything can be summed up with the slogan coined by the IDF on the eve of the Gaza disengagement: Determination and sensitivity. Determination requires a response, while sensitivity requires one to bite the bullet.

This is particularly true in respect to the violent margins of the settlement enterprise. The hatred for the police there is even greater than in other communities. The modus operandi is also more sophisticated: Cameras monitor police officers who resort to force in response to verbal insults. At times, a reckless policeman is restrained this way, and this is commendable. Other times, the life of an excellent officer is ruined.

 Israeli police officers who read about the insult directed at the policeman in Cambridge responded with laughter: Police officers and soldiers in Israel sustain much harsher insults in the settlements and other neighborhoods. Often they pretend not to hear it. It’s humiliating, it’s frustrating, but usually it’s the right move.

Those who have power must simultaneously develop thick skin. This is true first and foremost for politicians; it’s also true for police officers, soldiers, and journalists. People in these fields have been given great power; they are not meant to misuse it.

{Based on a a piece by Nachum Bernea, with Yair Alpert}


  1. What Should Israeli Police Do When Called “Nazi”? he should stop acting like one!!!, and leave alone his Jewish brothers who have the right to protest.

  2. My friend from a mizrachi-type family where both parents were holocaust survivors, saw as a young girl two policemen beating a chareidi with such sadistic brutality that the first scream that came out of her mouth was “Nazis!”

  3. What should chareidim do when they and their greatest gedolim are called shchorim, doosim, Khomeinis, Talibanim, Arafat’s students etc.?

  4. Follow police protocol as trained.

    When a person is involved in public protection, the public safety comes first. If a police officer is pushed by the driver of a traffic stop, he should follow the protocol and make an arrest. If a police officer has ANYTHING (spit included) directed at them, he should follow protocol and make an arrest.

    If a police officer is called a Nazi or cursed at in private, an arrest will not be made. But, if he was called Nazi or cursed in public where the goal is to incite the mob already ruling the street he will be arrested.

    Gates was arrested for shouting and cursing in public, which by law is called disorderly conduct. Following protocol is never wrong.

    The restraint of the police thus far is remarkable. It’s amazing how calm and restrained their approach has been. No one understands how a riot in a puny few block area
    wasn’t CRUSHED by now.

  5. There is NO EXCUSE for one Jew calling another Jew a nazi. It is like calling a black person a nigger – it is way over the line of acceptable behavior.

  6. What he should do? he should go home put his kipa on and go Daven Mincha and eat Challah and Fish. And play wih his children or learn a little pirkei avos.

  7. It is inexcusable for one Jew to call another “Nazi.” We are forbidden to call another Jew by the name of a non-kosher animal. (For instance, it is forbidden to call another Jew a “pig.”) How much more so are we forbidden to call another Jew by a name reeking of evil such as “Nazi” or “Mengele.”

    People who use such language have no shame. They have certainly not properly learned what the heilige Torah expects of them. I knew many people who survived the Holocaust and the camps. If anyone had a right to use such terms it would have been them but hey would never, ever call a fellow Jew by such names.

    What should an officer or soldier do when called such a name. The correct response is: nothing. The shame is not his. The shame belongs on the head of the name-caller. The officer should not allow himself to be provoked by someone who is on a lower level.

    When a Jew calls another Jew “Nazi,” he is also calling himself “shameless.”

  8. Rachel R,usually you miss the boat or take the wrong one. however this time your not wrong but not 100% right either.

  9. Calling another Jew a Nazi cheapens the Holocaust. It is a disgrace and a slap in the face to anyone who died from or endured actual Nazi brutality.

  10. to all that write here about calling a ‘jew’ Nazi: the things we discussed here is not about calling a a Jew Nazi, its about calling Nazi a police officer who has no sign of being Jewish, he hits, he isn’t wearing a kipa, he talk dirty, eats Tryfa, dose ‘all’ Avyros of the Tora, so why should he be called Jewish???.