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.