Israel and Gun Control

There are recent headlines and talk about Israel relaxing gun control laws and arming citizens since the Hamas terrorist attacks October 7th. But these narratives can be deceiving. One Israeli tactical expert, Yonatan Stern, has exposed some concerning actions on behalf of the Israeli government that tell a different story.

Yonatan Stern was born in Israel in 1984, and joined the Israeli police at age 16, after growing up in Hebron, where he witnessed constant terror attacks. At age 18, he joined the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), where he served for three years. He then attended college, where he studied government and counter-terrorism operations before moving to the United States in 2007. Several years later he founded the Cherev Gidon Israeli Tactical Training Academy. Cherev Gidon means “sword of Gideon,” referring to the military leader, judge and prophet whose victory over the Midianites is recounted in the Book of Judges in the Hebrew Bible. Stern brings a unique approach to firearms training that aims to address weak spots that he has identified in Americans’ firearm habits.

Is Israel Truly Willing to Give Citizens the Right to Self-Defense?

According to Stern, “almost nobody is allowed to own guns at all” in Israel. But most citizens enter the Israeli military at 18, and they are issued a rifle. Americans who enter the military are also issued rifles, but the difference is that American soldiers aren’t permitted to keep their rifles in their possession off base. “But in Israel it doesn’t work like that, in Israel, the soldiers usually leave their bases carrying their rifles with them,” says Stern. Upon discharge from the IDF, however, the rifle is taken from the Israeli soldier. And from the sounds of it, that soldier may never be able to even get a handgun, never mind a rifle, again. Images in the news recently of IDF soldiers carrying their weapons are contributing to public deception around the idea of “loosened” gun-control laws in Israel. “The problem is that people see these off-duty soldiers, very often who walk around in civilian clothes, carrying M16s on their back,” says Stern. “And the conclusion that outsiders come to, ‘oh look at that all these civilians in Israel are armed, they can just walk around lugging M16s on their back,’ and they see [Israel] as a gun utopia.”

If you are worried about gun control in America, you would not want to be an Israeli citizen. There is no Second Amendment in Israel. In fact, the second law that the Israeli legislature passed in 1949 was the confiscation of all firearms and munitions. About 2% of private citizens in Israel own firearms, as compared to 30% of people in the United States. “Out of those 2%, those lucky few who do have a firearm license in Israel, it’s only good for one pistol, no rifles, no shotgun, just one measly pistol.”

There has been a recent increase in the amount of ammunition a gun owner can possess in Israel from 50 to 100 rounds. But that might not make much of a difference, considering what Israeli citizens are now up against. “Whoop-de-doo -- that’s a huge improvement. You know you’re up against heavily armed terrorists with AK 47s, and you’ve got now you’ve got a whole hundred rounds of 380 in your little Glock 42,” laments Stern.

Another problem is that very few Israeli citizens are eligible to apply for a gun permit. Even if you are eligible, you can be denied a permit without explanation. “I lived in a frontline settlement called Kiryat Arba which is next to the city of Hebron, it’s smack in the middle of the West Bank, we were getting shot at all the time, surrounded by Palestinian terrorists, I was eligible to apply but they denied me without giving a reason,” says Stern. “You know that’s the problem when you’re dealing with a bureaucracy, and you have these power-hungry bureaucrats, they don’t like the look on your face one day, they just decide nope.”

Failures of Israeli and American Leadership Prior to Hamas Attacks

How did Israel’s advanced and heavily funded intelligence services (including Shin Bet, Mossad, and the IDF) miss this impending attack from Hamas, which put its unarmed citizens in danger? Israel’s agents and informants have followed militant leaders such as those in Hamas in the past, and managed to stop them in their tracks. Israel’s intelligence services have motion sensors, cameras, army patrols and even a "smart barrier" along the border between Gaza and Israel. “Obviously heads are gonna have to roll for this,” says Stern. “I’m sure there are going to have to be investigations looking into who is responsible for these failures, and those responsible are going to have to face judgment for what they did.”

President Biden is making gun control a priority in America, with the regulations issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the new White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, but the president is now under investigation for being a potential accessory to supplying Hamas terrorists with arms. When the U.S. pulled out of Afghanistan in 2021, it left behind $7.12 billion in military equipment, including 316,000 weapons. Some of these weapons were sold to Palestinian resistance groups through the black market.

Stern feels that Biden is also too focused on protecting Hamas and civilian casualties, and that his behavior in pressuring Israel on how to prosecute the war is unforgivable. “He should not be trying to place any conditions, and try to hinder Israel in any way, and I’m definitely disappointed about that, but I’m not surprised.”

Politically Motivated Disarmament in Israel Endangers Citizens

There also appears to be politically motivated disarmament going on in Israel since the Hamas attacks. Stern mentions the story of Amishov Melet, a security coordinator in Geulat Zion, a small community on the West Bank. Melet was issued an M16 rifle by the IDF to protect the settlement. Israel’s Shin Bet, which is the Israeli equivalent of the United States’ FBI, had been monitoring Melet’s political activity and communications. “They didn’t like this guy because of his political views, he’s a right winger who’s outspoken, he’s conservative, he’s been critical of the government, and they decided he is not someone that they believe should have the right to defend himself or his community,” says Stern. “So they ordered the IDF to confiscate his rifle, his M16. That left his entire community exposed and vulnerable.”

After Stern drew attention to this story, other Israelis who were disarmed for similar reasons reached out to the press and on social media. “This is treason, to disarm your own people on the front lines in the midst of a war, that’s the worst betrayal that you can do.”

The good news is that some action has taken place on behalf of Israeli lawmakers, thanks to Stern’s exposure of the corrupt political establishment in Israel. Ministers Amichai Chikli (Likud) and Yitzhak Wasserlauf (Otzma Yehudit), along with 11 MKs addressed a letter to the Shin Bet, demanding that previously confiscated rifles be returned to the residents of Judea and Samaria.

Israel’s gun-control policies are much stricter than those of other countries typically known to be anti-gun, including Australia and England, says Stern.He believes that recent media narratives paint an all-too-forgiving picture of the willingness of Israeli leaders to arm and protect their citizens.

Jessica Geraghty is an established freelance writer and blogger who has over 15 years of experience writing for businesses, political candidates and news publications. Most recently, topics she has written about include human resources, informed consent, the Second Amendment and real estate.

Image: Ralf Steinberger

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