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In Corrie ruling, court calls nonviolent activism 'practically violent'

An Israeli judge claims activists who oppose house demolitions - and not those who demolish them - are the perpetrators of violence.

The Israeli court system was, for a long time, the most successful fig leaf of the only Jewish state in the Middle East.  Now it has gone diving into the Hasbara morass. After “diplomatic terrorism” (opposing Israel in the world, a phrase favored by our foreign minister) and “economic terrorism” (boycotting settlements) we now have the District Court of Haifa blaming (Hebrew) the ISM organization of being  ”practically violent,” even though the court admits it had nothing to do with violence.

The court wrote this in the decision on the civil suit filed by the family of Rachel Corrie, who was run over and killed by an Israeli D-9 bulldozer in 2003 in Rafah. Corrie was trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian house by the IDF for reasons few can remember anymore.

The court claimed the iDF was engaged in hisuf, a technocratic Hebrew term meaning literally “an act of exposure,” which in practical terms means the destruction of property, most often agricultural property but sometimes houses as well. Often, hisuf – which IDF gunmen often claimed was intended to prevent ambushes – had little to do with military necessity and everything to do with state terrorism: terrorizing the Palestinian residents out of supporting the uprising against Israel.  B’Tselem noted at the time that under the guise of hisuf, the IDF gunmen often destroyed fields of tomatoes and zucchini, often causing irreparable damage. B’Tselem called (Hebrew) this policy a policy of collective punishment.

The chief of the Civil Administration in the West Bank at the time, Brig. General Dov Tsdaka, said at the time (Hebrew):

…in Gaza, I think, they did cross the limit. After the events in Eley Sinai and Dugit, they carried out a very massive hisuf. They uprooted hundreds of dunams of strawberries, plantations and hothouses. I think this is unfair…. It will cause hatred and inflammatory [behavior?], and will draw more people into the circle of hostility. This is simply unwise. We have some instances of this in the RJS (Region of Judea and Samaria, IDF parlance for the West Bank – YZG].  Sometimes I approve a certain amount of hisuf, but when I visit the place I find our forces acted hyperactively […] Have we exaggerated in some places? With my hand on my heart I tell you – yes, certainly, certainly. You allow them to take down 30 trees, and the next day you come and see they took down 60. The soldier or the company commander in place gets carried away. There were such cases, and we cannot ignore them. We are responsible for this. We hold investigations, people are brought to justice.

Really? Well, Tsdaka smilingly admitted that no one was actually prosecuted, but “they were given a very clear nu nu nu,” a term often used to tell children they’ve crossed a line.

So that’s what hisuf looks like: collective punishment acting against the interests of people carrying it out, who are themselves vandals bent on destruction who know the military system won’t punish them, at most will nu nu nu  at them.

A year after the death of Rachel Corrie, even some Israelis were shocked by the mass demolition of houses in Rafah, and Justice Minister Yossef Lapid said that the picture of an old refugee rummaging through the ruins of her house, looking for her medicine, reminded him of his grandmother, who lived in A Dark Period™, as Israelis are wont to call the Nazi regime when they don’t want to just name it. This made then-Chief of Staff Yaalon very wroth. And yet, a year later, a committee appointed by the same Yaalon told us what anyone can figure out quite easily (Hebrew): that collective demolition of houses is ineffective, actually counterproductive, when it comes to preventing terrorism. This is just the practical side of things, of course; there is no point in discussing morality with an army proud of being more moral than Hamas.

And then, the verdict of Judge Oded Gershon turns us back ten years, as if by a time machine. As if none of the above happened, Gershon ruled that ISM activists served as “human shields”  -a common claim, never substantiated, of the Hasbara system – and gave “financial, logistical and moral aid to the Palestinians, including terrorists and their family members, and disrupted the demolition or the sealing of the houses of terrorists who carried out suicide attacks, killing many.”  All of which, said the judge, shows that “the organization is misusing the language of human rights and morality, in order to obfuscate the severity of its actions, which are practically violent.” Wow. I was unaware the judiciary joined the Hasbara project.

Let’s begin by saying it takes a lot of chutzpah for an Israeli judge to preach about “human shields” when the Israeli High Court of Justice took more than three years to forbid the IDF from using Palestinians as human shields – and, alas, we have no reason to believe the army actually obeyed that order. Further, in the mirror world of Judge Gershon, if you are trying to prevent the demolition or sealing of houses – which even the IDF now concedes is harmful, and which constitutes illegal collective punishment – that is, if you are opposed to the punishing of people who committed no offence themselves, then your very objection to a crime against international law is “practically violent.” Your actions, not those of the people kicking people out of their homes for no crimes of their own, with limited time to get their belongings, and then destroying those homes. Your actions, not those of the people who made being the relative of an enemy – all too often, a dead enemy – a punishable offense, are “practically violent.” Needless to say, all of this has absolutely nothing to do with Rachel Corrie’s death. She was not defending the house of a suicide bomber. The Israelis killed in Rafah were anything but civilians. But this shows us where Judge Gershon comes from.

The judge, natch, accepted the army’s position that the soldier who ran Corrie over did not see her – and this despite the fact that the Criminal Investigations Division (CID) didn’t complete its interrogation. It was stopped, or rather disrupted, when General Doron Almog – who, years later, would flee London for fear he would be prosecuted for his actions in Rafah’s dirty war – ordered the driver to shut up and say nothing (Hebrew). This little incident, naturally, has slipped from Almog’s memory – but not from those of the CID investigators, or their memos. The U.S. administration was also not impressed with the IDF investigation into the death of an American citizen.

So if the CID investigation was disrupted, and the military investigation only relies on the testimony of the driver – who, naturally, wants to keep his distance from Corrie’s death – which contradicts the testimony of others, is there any surprise that the Israeli courts, which routinely serve as the rubber stump of the Israeli security system, prefer throwing blame at the ISM? Maybe no one will notice that it’s not the ISM that was on trial, but the IDF; that it was not the ISM that killed Corrie, but the IDF; and that the judge follows Almog’s example, and whitewashes the investigation of Corrie’s death.

And prefers transferring the blame from those who shot and ran over to those who were shot and run over.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Norbert Jost

      RE: Quote. “The Israeli court system was, for a long time, the most successful fig leaf of the only Jewish state in the Middle East…..”

      This opening sentence really caused mea chuckle!! It promptly raised within me the question: How many Jewish States should actually be there in the ME?
      :-)

      Reply to Comment
    2. Nonviolence is not quietism but struggle refusing certain weapons, those of direct violence. To be effective, nonviolence must harm socio-economically. If violence is defined as any harm, then nonviolence is violence–but of a peculiar kind, exposing direct harm unto itself without similar reply to reduce the capacity of its opponent. If Israeli State policy defines all opposition to its goals as violent, then voting for a minority party in Israel can be violent, and there is evidence of this position in some recent Knesset proposals.

      Terrorism, the hell of the bombings, has been generalized to any action against Israeli State policy purportedly preventing a recurrence of bombing. This gives the State a monopoly on fact. There can be no independent judiciary in such circumstances.

      Reply to Comment
      • AJS

        Every country defines for itself what it means to be law-abiding or not. Speeding laws, which may seem arbitrary to some, are in place to protect others from being harmed. Breaking those laws is punishable, even if you think they’re stupid. Indeed, the State defines fact in law.

        Reply to Comment
        • In the US and UK (and now some EU countries) fact is determined by a jury. If you have ever gone through jury selection or watched a trial outcome, you know the jury may well not be the State, and in US law certainly is not. In Israel the judge determines fact; s/he must then be autonomous from the State in action. I contend this is not the case. Isreal jurispurdence has yet to fully demarcate itself from the State. Until it does so, fact is at risk.

          Reply to Comment
    3. Not too long ago, even Peres and Rabin were considered ‘peace criminals’ by Netanyahu (and Sharon). By incremental steps extreme views become main stream, until there is no room left for anything human.
      The recent attacks and mock attacks on Gaza could be a desparate attempt to provoque ‘terrorism’, the indispensable nourishment of the hasbara monster.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Danny

      It was a shame Almog wasn’t arrested in London before being tipped about his impending arrest by the Israeli consulate (which I would have thought would have been sanctioned by the British justice department for both interfering with police matters as well as aiding and abetting a wanted felon, but I digress). Today, Mr. Almog is a “businessman” who, recently, has managed to gut and destroy a security-related venture he was heading, costing its investors tens of millions of dollars. I guess once a demolisher, always a demolisher.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Laurent Szyster

      Nice stack of moral sophistry, Yossi.

      Still flawed at its foundations.

      Because judge Oded Gershon did not claim that those who demolish houses are not violent, that destroying homes is a non-violent mean or that it is an effective deterent against terror (even if one can suspect that the lastest hypothesis may be his opinion).

      What he positively asserted in his ruling was that “financial, logistical and moral aid [given] to the Palestinians, including terrorists” are practically not pacific means of demonstration.

      If the very ambiguity about violence found in the mission statement of ISM is not convincing enough, read the allegation of wide scale massacre in Jenin and genocide in Gaza carried by their web sites. Those libels constitute incitement, which is anything but pacifism.

      There is a consistent pattern of statements and actions by ISM members to support judge Oded Gershon ruling about their disingenuity.

      And I agree with him that Rachel Corrie’s death can be blamed on the people who sent in harm’s way an hysteric and angry young woman looking for redemption by sacrifice.

      Reply to Comment
      • The focal event is Corrie and her behavior at the time. Even if you were correct in all paticulars, she did nothing to incit violence at the moment. Her stand at that moment is where nonviolence rests. You would have here assassinated to harm a third party; that’s what bombers do.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Kolumn9

      If I voluntarily walk in front of a man with a gun to shield him from getting shot so that he can come closer to you in order to kill you, am I participating in non-violent activism?
      .

      That is precisely and explicitly the way that ISM announces itself – not as ‘nonviolent peace activists’, but as a group that exists to ‘nonviolently’ support ‘resistance’ by directly undermining the ability of the Israeli military to operate. In other words, they have taken sides and act as a support group for the Palestinians using any methods in their direct confrontation with Israel. Their ‘noviolent activism’ takes the form of supporting in the field any and all Palestinian violence against Israel while undermining any actions Israel may take to fight against it. This is nonviolent activism? Really? How seriously delusional do you have to be to make that argument?

      Reply to Comment
      • “they have taken sides and act as a support group for the Palestinians using any methods in their direct confrontation with Israel. Their ‘noviolent activism’ takes the form of supporting in the field any and all Palestinian violence against Israel while undermining any actions Israel may take to fight against it”
        –This is not nonviolence, and there is nothing in the public record of Corrie indicating she supported all resistence against Israel. The house in question was, it is said, a pharmacist’s; and the action of the IDF was one of hisuf, clearing the land–not arresting a known “terrorist.” And nonviolence does take sides; sometimes more sides than you realize.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          That the house itself wasn’t one of a terrorist made no difference to the movement that Corrie belonged to. Whether it had a rocket launcher, a weapons smuggling tunnel or a suicide bomb factory would have made no fundamental difference to the ISM in terms of attempting to prevent Israeli security measures.
          .

          Hisuf is the act of removing houses/trees/anything that could be used by snipers to attack Israeli soldiers. This is a legitimate act in a war-zone used by all military forces and Corrie’s action in interfering with a legitimate military operation is a hostile act. The simple matter is that in a military confrontation, sometimes even pharmacists get their houses destroyed.
          .

          Corrie’s nonviolence, like those of the organization she belonged to, was not nonviolent. She took sides and chose to operate as support staff for the side that uses terrorism and attacks enemy forces from civilian areas. That she got pancaked is just fine with me.

          Reply to Comment
    7. Aaron the Fascist Troll

      I think Gurvitz is basically right about this one. I didn’t read the judge’s decision, but I don’t see how the “practically violent” point could be relevant to this case. If Corrie had not been associated with any organization at all, would that have changed the question of the driver’s and the army’s culpability? I’m not a lawyer, but why did the judge have to find one way or the other on this specific question about the nature of the ISM?

      Reply to Comment
      • “Terrorism” places the action in a battle, thereby removing redress by civil action. Labeling the ISM as terrorist, so identical to any other such as Hamas, taints the action of any under its umbrella. More, Corrie was not rational, so a full tool of the organization. In this way there is no damage to ask for redress. “Infiltrator” is also being generalized in Israeli politics/law in the same way as “terrorist” is for Corrie. The harm, apart from Corrie’s family, is to clarity of thought in Israel.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          There is no harm to clarity of thought in Israel. Corrie volunteered to serve the interests of the enemy. She died. No tears shed.

          Reply to Comment
          • In nonviolence, the class of enemy itself is disupted. Corrie’s presence created a place to stand for saying no to this demolition; that gives an alternative to joining those you call the enemy. “Hisuf” is a balming word, meant to mollify the mind. As Yossi quotes in his piece, even Israeli commanders know it can go arbitrarily too far. “Terrorism”, “enemy” create easy categories; but the days of total war are behind us in this conflict; if not, you will be lead exorbitantly to the absurdity of ethnic and religious cleansing in the Bank. I understand it is difficult to find a third position; Corrie was there to help find one.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Greg, the ISM does not dispute the class of enemy in assigning it to Israelis as a group. So either the organization is not nonviolent and so you really shouldn’t be defending it using such lofty rhetoric or you are being very selective in your definitions and their applications. Also, don’t assign your own narrative to a dead person. It is unbecoming.

            Reply to Comment
        • Aaron the Fascist Troll

          The word “terrorist” has been corrupted in Israel for over two decades, before I ever came here. Similarly with Israeli soldiers in uniform being “kidnapped” rather than captured. I’m kind of disgusted by such everyday lies, but whatever, it’s not like other mass democracies are any better.

          Reply to Comment
          • ToivoS

            ATFT — The hypocrisy and corruption of language to describe IDF forces and the Palestinian resistance is one that K-9 is constitutionally incapable of seeing. Notice he only responds in short declarative phrases using right wing jargon and cliche’s. There is no sign that K-9 is capable of critical analysis. Likely, he simply borrows words from trusted sources that he can repeat like an automaton when certain memes appear before his sensors.

            Reply to Comment
          • Nothing is gained by deconstructing the thought of K9. Listen to his voice; he speaks for many. If I pretend–pretend–to make him nothing, I have limited my own understanding. It is surprising how occasionally there is a place to stand in the same words, for a moment, no more, but there nonetheless. Perhaps that makes us all uneasy.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Thanks, I think. Notice the short, declarative phrase…

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Au contraire. The hipocrisy of everything is blatantly obvious to me, but as it is present on all side I find it hypocritical to take only one side to task. I get most of my information from leftist sites. I just generally disagree with their axioms, something that is clearly hard for you to grasp. Likely in your world anyone who disagrees with you is either stupid, illogical or bought. That is a really sad state of affairs where you are so attached to your own positions that you are incapable of assigning value to anyone else’s.

            Reply to Comment
          • Aaron the FT, I do not think this a matter of Israel being inferior in the misuse of words. Fighting against their corruption leaves them potent for the future; law can then leap with them into new possibilites. Those who expand “terrorist” and “infiltrator” want, deep in their response, to prevent such leaps; for leaps are risky–this I know.

            Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        One possibility is that the references to ISM are there to point out that she was not a random civilian and that her actions and presence in the area were deliberate and in this way she bears much of the responsibility for her own death. Once you absolve the state of wrongdoing you still need to assign some blame for not preventing the unfortunate accident of her death.

        Reply to Comment
        • Aaron the Fascist Troll

          But I don’t think anyone disputes that she was there to protest and to disrupt. That’s why I don’t understand how the facts about the ISM could be relevant.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            That she was there to protest and disrupt is still something that has to be substantiated in the official conclusion even if no one is disputing it.

            Reply to Comment
        • Perhaps Corrie saw a different ISM, at least locally, in her experience. Perhaps her standing there, watching the bulldozer approach, was saying, among other things, you have mislabeled what is here, in her sight. And so I use Corrie as so many others have, and will.

          I see no reason why the bulldozer could not have stopped, soldiers taking her out of the way. Perhaps K9 and I can agree that this alternative was a possibility.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Or perhaps Corrie was there to struggle on the side of the Palestinian ‘resistance’ given that her letters consider it to be fully legitimate. Did she care whether the house was that of a terrorist or a pharmacist? Doubtful. That isn’t what she was there to do. She was there to disrupt Israeli operations of every kind.
            .

            You are asking for a case of historical revisionism. No, the bulldozer could not have stopped and the soldiers couldn’t have pulled her out because the bulldozer driver did not see her. This is the part that there is a refusal on the part of many to comprehend – that people that put themselves in the middle of danger happen to die and often do so unintentionally. We could also imagine a scenario where the stupid girl didn’t step in front of a bulldozer or moved away from a very heavy machine moving at 1mph or never went to Gaza or never volunteered for the ISM or never heard of Gaza. These are all potential acts of historical revisionism that serve absolutely no purpose, except the attempt in yours is to find fault in one specific place.

            Reply to Comment
    8. It appears to be contagious, not just a ‘dangerous precedent’. 270 miners in South-Africa have been charged in court with the murder of 34 of their colleagues shot by the police.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Bronxman

      My friend’s daughter, a U.S. citizen, also protested against house demolitions in the West Bank. I don’t know if she was with the same organization as R.Corrie. The Israeli military locked her up overnight and shipped her out the next day. I imagine a copy of her file was sent to U.S. authorities. Non-violent protest is handled with non-violent justice.

      Reply to Comment
      • Piotr Berman

        Bronxman, IDF is the most humane (*) army in the world, and what happened to the daughter of your friend is that on that day IDF was even more extraordinarily humane then usual. Importantly, IDF keeps improving, for example I read in more places that I can count that during Gaza war IDF engaged in unprecedented efforts to prevent casualties among innocent civilians. I can only surmise that many of those efforts were absent in the Lebanon war 2 years earlier.

        Reply to Comment
        • Piotr Berman

          I wanted to footnote the origin of “the most humane”. Contemporarily with the beginnings of Zionism, Gilbert and Sullivan composed extraordinarily popular comic opera Mikado (translated to Yidish among many other languages), and perhaps the most popular aria started with these words:

          A more humane Mikado never
          Did in Japan exist,
          To nobody second,
          I’m certainly reckoned
          A true philanthropist.
          It is my very humane endeavour
          To make, to some extent,
          Each evil liver
          A running river
          Of harmless merriment.

          My object all sublime
          I shall achieve in time —
          To let the punishment fit the crime —
          The punishment fit the crime;
          And make each prisoner pent
          Unwillingly represent
          A source of innocent merriment!
          Of innocent merriment!

          Reply to Comment
        • Bronxman

          Piotr Berman: Saying that the day that my friends’s daughter was arrested the “IDF was even more extraordinarily humane then usual” implies that non violent protesters are normally killed on a daily basis in Israel. You might have quite a problem selling that thinking to the wider public.

          Reply to Comment
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