Israeli PM Netanyahu: “Such behavior does not characterize IDF soldiers.”

As was reported yesterday, an Israeli officer is to be investigated for taking his M-16 to the face of an international protester in the middle of a nonviolent demonstration on the West Bank.

In the meantime, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that “Such behavior does not characterize IDF soldiers and officers and has no place in the Israel Defense Forces and in the State of Israel.”

Which is lovely of him, of course — except that as an Israeli, I can assure you that not only does “such behavior” have a place in both the IDF and in Israel, that place is time-honored. The difference is that this time, the dude who got smacked was blonde. If you’re Palestinian, no one notices.

According to Amnesty International’s 2011 annual report:

Consistent allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, including of children, were frequently reported. Among the most commonly cited methods were beatings, threats to the detainee or their family, sleep deprivation, and being subjected to painful stress positions for long periods.

According to Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem:

Over the years, B’Tselem and other human rights organizations have documented hundreds of cases in which soldiers and police have slapped and kicked Palestinians, insulted and humiliated them, and delayed them at checkpoints for no reason. On occasion, more serious violence has also been exposed.

These include the story of a shepherd beaten and humiliated for no apparent reason:

On Friday, 4 March 2011, [Nayef] ‘Abayat was grazing his family’s flock…. Around mid-day he gathered his sheep and was walking along the road leading to his house…. As he was walking, three military jeeps pulled up and three soldiers got out and came over to him.

According to ‘Abayat, one of the soldiers asked him what he was doing there and kicked him before he could answer. The blow knocked Abayat to the ground, injuring his elbow, which began to bleed. The other soldiers searched him, cuffed his hands, and blindfolded him. Then they threw him onto the floor of the jeep, which then drove off. They drove for about two hours, during which the soldiers insulted and swore at him. The jeep came to the Etzion army base, where the soldiers left him waiting in the yard for a few hours, still blindfolded and cuffed. The soldiers next to him continued to swear at him and insult him, and one of the soldiers pushed a tomato into his mouth.

‘Abayat was 24 when this incident took place — but as was reported in The Independent last August, the Israeli military doesn’t limit its abuse to adults:

[C]hildren [accused of throwing stones] as young as 12 are hauled from their beds at night, handcuffed and blindfolded, deprived of sleep and food, subjected to lengthy interrogations, then forced to sign a confession in Hebrew, a language few of them read.

Quoting figures provided by Defence for Children International Palestine, the story reports that 87% of Palestinian minors arrested by Israeli forces are subjected to physical violence.

Perhaps the Prime Minister hasn’t read these reports.

Perhaps he hasn’t seen this video footage, of an Israeli soldier cocking a loaded rifle and pointing it directly at the face of a Palestinian man, from a distance of some three inches. Or this footage, in which an Israeli soldier is seen assaulting a Palestinian (who happens to be a B’Tselem activist) on his own land. Or this footage, of the Israeli police yanking a man wearing a Palestinian headscarf out of a group of protesters, and beating the crap out of him in the middle of a parade (the victim happens to be an American Jew).

It’s possible the Prime Minister hasn’t stumbled across any of that, or across this footage either, wherein two Border Patrolmen boast of their power over the Palestinians who pass through the checkpoint they man:

We handle people who want to make trouble for the country. Whoever comes close, wants to make trouble, we break them. What do I mean ‘break them’? We let them suffer, in the sun, in the rain, so that they learn not to mess with the Border Police.

and another says what he really thinks of the people who can’t get anywhere on the West Bank without first going through him:

Animals. Animals. Like the Discovery Channel…. There are monkeys, dogs, gorillas. The problem is that the animals are locked [up], they can’t come out. We’re humans. They’re animals. They aren’t humans. We are.

It’s possible the Prime Minister is so criminally ignorant of the doings of Israel’s own military that he’s unaware of all this. Anything’s possible.

But the Palestinians who live with it day in and day out are not so ignorant.

As an Israeli, I suggest you listen to them.



  1. Neocortex

     /  April 16, 2012

    The difference is that this time, the dude who got smacked was blonde. If you’re Palestinian, no one notices.

    This is one of those things that’s really hard, isn’t it? On one hand, if something is getting people to notice, that’s good, and you certainly don’t want to be dismissive of people experiencing brutality because there were other, more marginalized people, getting brutalized first and more often. On the other hand, you really want people to also care when this happens to the less privileged people that it usually happens to. And frequently they don’t. And it must be terribly frustrating to the less privileged people that nobody gives a crap about what they go through until it happens to someone not-them.

  2. Eliezer Be'eri

     /  April 16, 2012

    To be fair, Netanyahu was referring to expected norms of behavior in the IDF. “As an Israeli” myself, who has served in the IDF, I can attest that indeed higher norms are expected by the military leadership. The clips you show do not refute that at all. Occupation does corrupt, and there is regrettable violence on the part of stressed-out, or immature, or corrupted soldiers – as unfortunately occurs in every military. But anecdotal incidents like these reflect primarily on the soldiers themselves. They do not prove a “norm” of behavior sanctioned by the leadership. Your post implies the opposite.
    And to be fair – there are a few distortions in your post. I think that most of the clips, and your commentaries on them, are misleading. For example, the second last video you linked to in no way shows Israeli police “beating the crap out of” a protester. There are no blows or kicks or slaps or punches of any sort in that clip. What you do see is reasonable force being used to subdue someone forcibly resisting arrest. The reason for the arrest is not the issue here. Your distortion of the content of the clip is. I suggest you review the clip and consider retracting your unfair commentary on it.
    And another “distortion” – your use of the phrase “as an Israeli”. I realize that throwing that in – twice – strengthens the impact of your criticism of Israel for the unaware reader. But wouldn’t a more accurate description of who you are have been to say “as an American armchair critic who once lived in Israel for a while but left a long time ago and will not be returning…”? Not as punchy… but a whole lot more honest. You might be an American with an Israeli passport, but you’re no Israeli. You’re not actually here, seeing what’s happening in real time, bearing the consequences of your opinions. Your readers should know that.

    • protocoach

       /  April 16, 2012

      Wow, what a load of crap.

      “But anecdotal incidents like these reflect primarily on the soldiers themselves. They do not prove a “norm” of behavior sanctioned by the leadership.”

      Quick hint: one incident, or two incidents, reflect primarily on the people involved. A multi-decade campaign of organized, state-sanctioned violence against an entire people is not an “anecdotal incident” and the fact that said campaign frequently boils over into acts of violence against peaceful protestors is not a disputed claim, it’s a simple fact.

      “And to be fair – there are a few distortions in your post. I think that most of the clips, and your commentaries on them, are misleading. For example, the second last video you linked to in no way shows Israeli police “beating the crap out of” a protester. There are no blows or kicks or slaps or punches of any sort in that clip. What you do see is reasonable force being used to subdue someone forcibly resisting arrest.”

      A. He was a peaceful protestor and the arrest was unjust in the first place. B. Are you blind, or are you simply being disingenuous? His head is forced into the groud by an officer’s knee, and then slammed into the curb at the 29 second mark. If you consider that reasonable force to apply to a peaceful protestor who is being illegally restrained by three law enforcement officers, then all I can say is that I’m terrified of the fact that anyone ever trusted you with a weapon more dangerous than a water pistol.

      “And another “distortion” – your use of the phrase “as an Israeli”. I realize that throwing that in – twice – strengthens the impact of your criticism of Israel for the unaware reader. But wouldn’t a more accurate description of who you are have been to say “as an American armchair critic who once lived in Israel for a while but left a long time ago and will not be returning…”?”

      What, precisely, makes you the arbiter of who is and is not an Israeli? Especially given that you’re clearly aware that our host is, in fact, an Israeli citizen (“You might be an American with an Israeli passport, but you’re no Israeli.”) and presumably aware that she considers herself a Zionist and a supporter of Israel’s existence? Wait, two can play this game: no real Israeli who had any pride in their country would serve in the IDF, given its long history of complicity in war crimes, murder, and savagery directed towards peaceful opponents. You may have an Israeli passport and live in Israel, but you’re no Israeli! Hey, this game is fun. No one I disagree with is really what they claim to be! I’m the only legitimate person! Yay me!

      Eliezer, you’re just another scumbag anxious to make excuses for fascistic, Bull Connor-esque behavior because it helps to assuage into your paranoia and fear. Grow up.

      • I really, really do appreciate the support (thank you!) and clearly I’m in agreement with the content of your comment (and may have to steal the line “No one I disagree with is really what they claim to be! I’m the only legitimate person! Yay me!” for all manner of use…!), but I would be very grateful we all could stop short of turns of phrase like “load of crap” and “scumbag” and the like.

        It is very, very hard to talk about these topics without getting ugly, and while clearly the responses are getting personal, I’d appreciate it if we could steer just shy of the going over the edge with it. Thanks, protocoach.

    • ExpatJK

       /  April 17, 2012

      Seconding what protocoach said – why isn’t it accurate for Emily to call herself Israeli? By your standards, because I have lived overseas for several years now without a clear plan to return to the US, I can’t call myself American despite holding a US passport, having family in the US, still paying US taxes, voting in US elections, etc. Emily has lived in Israeli, holds an Israeli passport, is married to an Israeli, has family there, etc – in my view she’s as Israeli as you are and gets to call herself that if she likes.

    • Dude. I am not going to argue the definition of “beating the crap out of.” The fact that someone laid one hand on a protester who was literally just standing there is bad enough.

      Neither am I going to argue my Israeliness with you. I’m not sure who died and made you the Interior Ministry, and/or the Judge of All Things, but I’m an Israeli who chose to leave for the good of my children. My readers do, in fact, know that, and they know why I left. The also know that I’m a Zionist, which believe me, is also a source of some contention. And as for “bearing the consequences,” I did live through one intifada, one war, and a series of suicide bombing waves, so I think I’m good on that front.

      • Eliezer

         /  April 17, 2012

        Who is an Israeli: My point was not that Emily is not an Israeli in the technical sense of the word. So all comments along the lines of “who made you Minister of the Interior” are not to the point. My point relates to the propriety of someone who has distanced herself from Israeli society publically declaring her Israeli credentials so as to make her criticism of Israel more readable. You undoubtedly know, Emily, that one of the characteristics of Israeli society is the sense that we are all family. It’s very striking to newcomers. You are entitled to leave that family, publically criticize it from afar, and declare why you will never return to live with that family. But like it or not, those are all acts of distancing yourself from your Israeli identity. The problems that led you to leave Israel are felt by many of us here, and we are no less concerned about them than you are. But we stay here to deal with them because they are OUR problems, and we therefore have a responsibility to address them in real life and real time. So it is a bit galling when someone who has sidestepped that responsibility invokes her Israeliness, of all things, in support of her criticism of us. Criticize by all means, but do so as an American Jew, or as a citizen of the world, because that is the identity you have adopted by your life choices. That’s why I think you trumpeting your Israeli identity, in the context of journalistic criticism of Israel, is misrepresentation. And that was my whole point. We may just have to agree to disagree on this.

        1) read my post carefully, please, before pulling out the personal insults (which I would think, based on Emily’s clear rules about politeness on this blog, should have gotten your offensive post banned, but somehow didn’t – maybe because you are on the “preferred” side of this debate?). My criticism of Emily’s use of the phrase “as an Israeli” notwithstanding, I never implied that Emily, or her views, are illegitimate. So why do you accuse me of that?
        2) I am neither blind, nor disingenuous. Just fair-minded and trying to be accurate. That clip, including second 29, just does not show police “beating the crap” out of a peaceful protester. I would be keen to know how many readers of this blog honestly think it does. You have no way whatsoever, from that clip, of knowing what the protester was doing 5 seconds before the policeman arrested him. Did he throw something (in the first 2 seconds he has his hand in the air holding a small object)? Did he refuse to show identification (a crime in Israel for security reasons, whether you like it or not)? Did he incite to violence? Who knows? The critical segment showing the context of the arrest has been edited out. That per se should make you wonder, shouldn’t it? Unless you have closed your mind and accepted the 1-dimensional understanding of this conflict – in which Israel is the constant, and only, immoral side – so common to the anti-Israel chorus. Your personal insults kind of confirm that you don’t have an open mind, so what’s the point in trying to have an intelligent, and polite, debate with you?
        3) And Emily, seeing as you used the inflammatory phrase “beat the crap”, when the evidence to my eye refutes that, I think you can’t just sidestep the issue by refusing to address it. I am making a point about closed-minded journalism with an agenda here, in contrast to an approach where criticism is given when criticism is due, and credit given when credit is due. I have many criticisms of Netanyahu myself, but in the case under discussion he, and the military establishment, have done the right thing… so far. If you are fair-minded, don’t you think that you should recognize that, along with the justified criticism of the Israeli officer?

  3. What was the name of that white American girl who got killed by an Israeli bulldozer while protesting? Did anybody ever get in trouble for that?

    • Rachel Corrie – and I’m not actually sure what the outcome was. I’ll look that up and come back here with it.

      Ok, as far as I can tell, the IDF investigated but came to the conclusion that its driver was not responsible (…).

      The Corrie family launched a civil trial in 2010 (in Israel), the verdict of which was supposed to come down late this month, but apparently that’s been postponed — here’s a link to all the updates:

  4. Woody

     /  April 16, 2012

    Brian Avery – shot in the face. Tom Hurndall – shot in the head. Tristan Anderson – shot in the head. Rachel Corrie – run over by bulldozer. Countless activists are shot by snipers at long distance INSIDE of Palestinian villages. Eventually the hasbarnik talkbakers are going to get tired of selling their souls for lame/easily refutable Facebook and blog posts. I live in Israel. I have experience with the army. There is no control – there is also no such thing as “resisting arrest”, btw. The army can’t arrest you and they certainly don’t have training in doing so. In their minds, the soliders are there either because they believe in some militant racist bullshit that just isn’t stopped by anyone because of guilt and the readily wieldable weapon of holocaust guilt OR they don’t want to be there and are stuck and thus bitter at Leftists who make apparent to the soldiers the absurdity of spending three years in a horrible place being told you’re going to be killed all the time. What a great image the country I live in has created for the world. It’s increasingly clear that the supporters of this idiocy are morons – like if Americans were pressed by world-criticism to defend the Iraq war. It would fall into idiocy and people would start punching others to prove their point. Bang-up job IDF, literally.

  5. Tal, Jerusalem.

     /  April 17, 2012

    To Emily Hauser:
    Yes, I agree with Eliezer Be’eri that you are not an Israeli. I also find it puzzling that you left Israel for moral reasons to the USA, whose record on human rights is not exactly exemplary, present or past. Did you forget about the atrocities during the Vietnam war, WWII, and going even further back to the ‘Indian Removal Act’ of 1830?
    On the other hand, I would be surely surprised if you were moving with your family to the Palestinian Authority (not to mention Gaza), where any criticism of the government would find you in jail or just dead.

    As for the substance of your criticism, I am the last one to defend brutes like Lt. Col. Eisner. But, for those who justify any gruesome act of Palestinian terrorism by reference to external circumstances (“occupation”, “poverty”), I find it quite hypocritical that they can find no mitigating circumstances in this case. After all, if a Palestinian can murder a whole family because of what he believes is happening to his people, why cannot a soldier who believes the person in front of him supports terrorists, lose his temper and punch him in the face?

    I served in the Israeli army in the West bank and in Gaza, and from what I saw, most soldiers behaved quite OK towards the local population. But a war is a war, and when you give people weapons and power, some will abuse it, no matter to what army they belong.
    The problem is that the Palestinian leadership, about whom you are completely silent for some disturbing reason, believes that the worst the situation becomes for the Palestinians, the more they could get from Israel.

    But Israel, as you saw, is changing. Today the population comprises of more than 50% of people whose ancestors didn’t grow up on universal values like you. For these people, the enemy, any enemy, is evil by nature and hence can understand only the language of force. In this way, Israel is becoming more like its neighbors: less ‘colonialist’ (as if you can colonize your ancestors’ homeland) and more middle-eastern.

    Maybe that is why you left Israel: you saw that Israel is not a middle-east version of Boston or Chicago. Israel is a country of immigrants from all over the globe and a big (20%) Arab minority, some of whom would like Israel (that is the Jews) to disappear from the area. (I once saw on a wall in an Arab village in the Galil a map of Palestine 2000 from which any mention of Jewish cities or villages was erased).

    As for those Jewish immigrants, most of whom didn’t study critical theory at the university and do not believe In Hegel’s mater-slave dialectic or Marx’s conspiracy theories. They simply believe that if someone shoots rockets and missiles at you for 8 years (Israel’s south), you go there and wipe the area clean. They also think that if a terror cell has established itself in a Mosque or in an apartment building, it is up to the local population to get them out, or bear the consequences.

    This is the Israeli society you didn’t like because you didn’t want to live in a country at war. We don’t like it either. But if I once thought that there is a way to get peace in the region (say by ending the ‘occupation’), I no longer think so. Once Israel leaves the west bank and Gaza completely, we are back to 1948 with a vengeance: rockets and missiles will start falling on our heads from north to south, or at least that is a possibility which I cannot completely rule out.
    And where will you be then?

    • 1) I have never said that I moved here because as a nation, the US is more moral. I said that my Jerusalem-born-&-bred husband (is he no longer an Israeli, too?) and I agreed Israel was no place to raise children, if one has an option — that we were unwilling to raise them in a country where they would be groomed to join a military that is no predicated more on the oppression of another people than on the actual defense of the state. These are very different statements. If it comforts you any, I am also very active on issues of social justice right here in the United States, as well.

      2) I suggest you look into the testimony given by the former combat soldiers in Breaking the Silence and Combatants for Peace. They tell a different story than “most soldiers behaved quite ok.” But agree — in war, people behave badly, Israelis and Palestinians alike. Why Israelis continue to be shocked that while in a state of war, Palestinians also behave badly is a real mystery to me.

      3) I am not completely silent about the Palestinian leadership (it’s just possible that you haven’t read everything I’ve ever written), but the fact is that they are not my problem. I’m Israeli (despite what you and Eliezer might think) and Israel and its leadership are my problem.

      4) If Israel had wanted to prevent rockets from Gaza, the Sharon government might have seen fit to negotiate security arrangements with the Abbas government but instead, and in spite of repeated, frantic requests, the government refused, thus demonstarting to the Palestinian people that Abbas’s efforts to negotiate are worthless, whereas Hamas’s methods apparently work at getting Israel to retreat.

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