Where Israeli attack dogs lie in wait.

attack dog Mohammad Amla back

Mohammad Amla’s back after he was attacked by IDF dogs.

When you learn a second language—even if you live in that language for a decade and a half, work, pray, fall in love, go to parties in that language—even then, there are always new words to discover. Surprises when you open the newspaper.

The other day, on a beautiful, lazy Friday afternoon in the holy city of Jerusalem, I learned a new Hebrew phrase: leshasot klavim— “to set dogs [on a person].”

In this past weekend’s Haaretzwriter Gideon Levy interviewed Mohammad Amla, a Palestinian day-laborer who for the past twelve years has supported his family (including the health care expenses of his deaf daughter) with the money he makes as a handyman in central Israel. He lives outside of Hebron but there’s always a way to get through Israel’s Security Barrier; once on the other side, Amla more often than not has obtained a legal work permit through the ungentle and wildly expensive services of an Israeli contractor. Between travel to and from Tel Aviv, rent on the dilapidated apartment he shares with six other men, and bribing his handlers, Amla doesn’t have much left at the end of the month, but even so, he told Levy, the money has been just enough to make it worth the effort.

Except that a few weeks ago, soldiers waited in ambush at one of the holes in the barrier. They waited with dogs.

The soldiers started firing rubber bullets at [Amla and two friends], and then another group of seven soldiers emerged from the Palestinian side of the fence. They were masked and accompanied by dogs. The frightened young men tried to continue in their flight back to their village, and then the soldiers unleashed the dogs [shasu klavim] on them.

“The dog jumped on me,” says Amla, “grabbed me forcefully, put his claws on my back and then also grabbed me by the neck with his teeth…. I fell facedown. I was suffocating. I felt that I was dead, dead. Unbelievable pain. And I was shouting to the soldiers: ‘Take it [the dog], release me,’ and they didn’t do anything.”

This is far from the first time that Israel has been caught setting dogs on unarmed Palestinians. The military maintains it suspended the practice in 2011, but multiple eyewitnesses and/or victims have come forward and provided testimony that attack dogs are still in use. One case involves an innocent bystanderanother, nonviolent protestors(click the second link for video of the latter event). Moreover, in each of these cases, including Amla’s, dogs were only one source of violence deployed by the soldiers in question: Palestinians typically also find themselves kicked, beaten, or shot at with rubber bullets, and in one case, a soldier dropped a rock directly on a man’s head as he lay—bitten, beaten, and bloodied—on the ground.

Each of these stories is horrible. Each is horrifying. But Amla’s contains two further truths that official Israel has long refused to admit.

The first: Palestinians get around the Security Barrier every day. They supply Israel with cheap, easily exploited labor, and are only stopped when the authorities want to make an example of someone—in which case permits are of no use because (as Amla’s story demonstrates) dogs, fists, and rubber bullets are unleashed before any questions are asked.

The second truth is buried so deep in the well-worn story of the decades-long occupation that it’s almost invisible: The dogs, and the soldiers who handled them, were on the Palestinian side of the fence. Israel is at complete liberty to do what it wants, where it wants, on the West Bank, and the point of its behavior is not merely to keep the respective peoples on their respective sides of a fence constructed ostensibly for that purpose. The point is to demonstrate Israel’s freedom to disrupt and control Palestinian lives at will, and to punish those who question that freedom.

It’s odd that after all these years and all this writing about the occupation and its inhumanities, I managed to miss “leshasot klavim,” but these things happen.

The real problem is that official Israel is banking on the fact that a lot of us will miss the phrase, and that even more of us won’t notice the activity. That we’ll sit under the bright Jerusalem sky or in our favorite coffee shops in Manhattan, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and Mohammad Amla will mean as little to us as he means to them. That we won’t give a moment’s thought to Jewish soldiers setting attack dogs on a refugee people.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

Photo source Alex Levac for HaAretz


Facts: More horrifying than Gideon Levy.

Please note: In a sadly ironic twist, I made a mistake in writing this. In the original, I flipped the numbers on Israeli Jewish willingness to live with Arabs in their building. I very deeply and very genuinely regret the error. The following reflects the correct (moderately less shocking) number.

http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/images/results.aspx?qu=percentage&ex=2#ai:MP900405000|On the morning of October 23, the world of people who care and/or write about Israel-Palestine exploded with controversy: “Most Israelis support an apartheid regime in Israel” trumpeted a headline in Haaretz, atop an article by renown—or reviled, depending on the reader—Israeli journalist Gideon Levy.

Immediately—instantaneously, breathlessly—everyone with a pre-positioned position weighed in, their old, or new, positions positively bristling with exclamation points. Those who have applied “apartheid” to Israel for years crowed; those for whom the mere use of the word represents delegitimization roared. It was “Told you so!” versus “Lies!” all day.

A few brave souls—such as Noam Shelef, in these pages—attempted nuance, butas I know (with recently renewed clarity), nuance isn’t a thing we’re particularly good at in the community of people who care and/or write about Israel-Palestine. Words, once used, may mean one thing and one thing only, and any attempt to suggest otherwise is to invite accusations of toadyism, inanity, and treason. Any effort to clarify matters after the fact—as Levy and Haaretz undertook to do, issuing a clarification and changing the article’s headline online to the more accurate “Survey: Most Israeli Jews wouldn’t give Palestinians vote if West Bank was annexed”—is generally seen as nothing but greater evidence of the same.

In the course of the yelling the first thing to get lost is any useful access to the truth.

But here’s the truth (and if you don’t like any of the words that have been used thus far to describe this truth, you may feel free, as we say in Hebrew, to call the truth “Abraham”): a significant proportion of Israeli Jewish society, from a third to more than half, support ideas that range from stripping Palestinian Israelis of the right to vote in national elections (33 percent), to the physical “transfer” of Palestinian citizens of Israel to the Palestinian Authority (47 percent), to preferential treatment of Israeli Jews over their Arab compatriots in governmental hiring (59 percent). Along the way, we find such things as: 42 percent of Israeli Jews would not want to live in the same apartment building as Palestinian Israelis, and 42 percent would not want their children to sit in the same class as Palestinian Israeli children.

I honestly don’t care what label you give that, nor how it might be defined in Political Science 101. I call it inexcusable. I call it immoral. I call it contrary to both Israel’s founding documents and the Jewish values we Jews say we’re teaching our children. I call it disgusting.

I also call it nothing new.

In 2010, we learned that nearly half of Israeli Jewish high school students didn’t believe that Palestinian citizens of Israel should have the same political rights as Jews. More than half felt that Palestinian Israelis shouldn’t have the right to be elected to parliament.

In April of this year, we saw the bigotry and xenophobia given even sharper expression when a video emerged of Israeli teenagers celebrating the traffic deaths of a group of West Bank Palestinian children: “They can be the future of terrorist attacks,” said one young man. When told that the dead were only 4- or 5-years-old, he replied: “Little kids, so what?”

And for months now, we’ve all been witness to acts of violence against Palestinians both in Israel and on the West Bank, ranging from hate speech daubed on monastery walls to vicious and brutal attacks on passers by in the heart of the nation’s capital.

As to the use of the term “apartheid,” much ado has been made of the fact that in Levy’s original reporting, he and Haaretz didn’t make crystal clear the fact that 69 percent of Israeli Jews would deny voting rights to West Bank Palestinians only if the West Bank is officially annexed to Israel-proper, a thing that 48 percent of Israeli Jews say they oppose. The fact that the State of Israel actually already controls the West Bank (annexation or no) and the people who live there already have no right to vote on the matter? That didn’t come up in the survey.

As Levy wrote in his clarification, “Isn’t that enough to scare anyone who fears for the future of this country?”

Or, to ask a different question: what if the foregoing had read, “Q: Should American Jews be allowed to vote in national elections? A: Thirty-three percent of American gentiles say no.”

Levy is a shining example of a messenger who gets shot through the left temple repeatedly for having the temerity to share unpleasant facts. But the disdain with which he is held, and all the fulminating on earth, do nothing to address the facts themselves.

And the facts themselves are chilling.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.