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Following orders: How the IDF eliminates 'quiet' in the West Bank

When the occupation seems to becomes a bit too ‘quiet,’ the Israeli military is always there to fully contain and eliminate the threat.

By Talal Jabari

Israeli soldiers escort Jewish settlers as they tour the Old City of the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, June 4, 2016. The Israel army has enforced segregation in the city for over two decades, restricting residents’ movement according to their religion. (Wisam Hashlamoun/FLASH90)

Israeli soldiers escort Jewish settlers as they tour the Old City of the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, June 4, 2016. The Israel army has enforced segregation in the city for over two decades, restricting residents’ movement according to their religion. (Wisam Hashlamoun/FLASH90)

Israeli intelligence has intercepting would-be suicide bombers down to a fine art. The military is quite adept at quashing demonstrations in the West Bank (they did a very thorough job at leveling entire sections of the Gaza Strip during the 2014 military campaign). And along with every Israeli military action come the right-wing politicians who make their television appearances, patting themselves on the back and talking about eliminating the enemy — all the while reinforcing their fear-mongering message that Israelis face an existential threat from the Palestinians.

The military wasn’t really ready for — nor really knew how to deal with — the adult Palestinians who fit no certain profile who started plowing their cars into people, or teenage Palestinians with no political affiliation who started a spree of stabbing attacks. That, however, did not stop the right-wing government from carrying on with its message, while assuring the populace that the solution to the current problems is more oppression.

But a more significant threat to the establishment has reared its ugly head, and no amount of military training, nor advance intelligence warnings can stop it. What makes this threat worse than the stabbing attacks is that it is posed by the majority of the Palestinian populace, and they’re relentless about it: the desire to live a normal life.

It is difficult to keep track of the amount of times Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other right-wing ministers have gone before the cameras to complain about Palestinian violence. And although that violence was only committed by a minutia of Palestinian society, that never prevented the Israeli authorities from imposing widespread collective punishment. However, one would assume that the fact that the level of violence has dwindled almost entirely should have the PM elated, perhaps even celebratory.

Prime Minister Netanyahu addresses Israel's Arab citizens, urging them to take a larger role in Israeli society. (YouTube screenshot)

Prime Minister Netanyahu addresses Israel’s Arab citizens, urging them to take a larger role in Israeli society. (YouTube screenshot)

But “quiet” isn’t what the establishment actually wants. Quiet doesn’t help explain why tens of thousands of Israeli soldiers are needed to protect the Israeli settlements. ‘Quiet’ doesn’t explain why Israel actually needs to keep those settlements. Quiet definitely doesn’t encourage Congress to send more money to Israel in the form of military aid. And most importantly, quiet doesn’t explain why the status quo of collective punishment over the Palestinian people is maintained through various mechanisms, some more oppressive than others.

It only makes sense, then, that the Israeli military be deployed to fully contain and eliminate the threat of quiet. Case in point: according to an article by Haaretz’s Nir Hasson last month, the Israeli Border Police were mandated in an internal memo to cause “friction” with the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem. In other words, if it gets too “quiet,” it’s their job to make a little noise. This process of initiating said “friction” landed a 12-year-old boy in hospital; he has reportedly suffered permanent brain damage.

Furthermore social media reports seem to indicate that the policy of initiating friction isn’t limited to the Border Police, nor is it limited to East Jerusalem. A video posted to Facebook last week shows four young Palestinian men sitting and chatting when an Israeli army jeep pulls up. The young men look at the jeep, the occupants of which, after a slight pause, open the rear door and lob a stun grenade at them. Has it been too quiet in Ramallah lately? And before you respond with, “they must have done something wrong, otherwise why would the army do that?” the army announced that the soldiers involved were disciplined for the unwarranted action.

This past week another story emerged, this time out of Sinjil in the West Bank, where the Israeli army had taken over a house as a temporary outpost. A few weeks in the house and it looks more like the set of The Walking Dead than someone’s home. The army issued an apology, and again reportedly tried the officer in charge. One cannot help but wonder, however, if this was another “friction” initiative by the Israeli military.

There are dozens of similar cases that have gone unreported because there didn’t happen to be any cameras filming, or because the practice is so commonplace that it rarely makes the news. But as the situation stays quiet and Netanyahu faces greater political opposition, one can only assume “friction” initiatives by the Israeli military against Palestinian civilians will only increase.

Talal Jabari is a Palestinian award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist from East Jerusalem. He tweets from @TalalJabari.

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    1. Bruce Gould

      If you talk to human rights workers you know that the West Bank looks like Alabama circa 1920, if you get the reference. A long time ago I was told by a member of the American Friends Service Committee that IDF extra-judicial assasinations of Palestinians had been going on for a long time. The good-ol-boy phenomenon is universal.

      Reply to Comment
    2. R5

      Bruce Gould: Palestine = Jim Crow….except that Hebron’s Jews would be slaughtered (again) if the IDF stepped down. The Jews of Hebron should leave for pragmatic reasons, but I can’t understand how right of return folks disagree with a Jewish presence there on principle. And yes how amazing – Arabs have learned the same words as civil rights folks, and I guess don’t mind using them to lie. Shouldn’t be too surprised that killers are also willing to be liars. And…cue the “Hasbara” slurs from Bruce! Just look at my “Hasbara” mentality! I’m one of the “Hasbara” folks! Don’t expect any coded language or Jew-baiting from Bruce folks. He just knows who the “Hasbara” people are.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Average American

      Look at Israel objectively. Just notice the main characteristics. Highly religious (rabbis decide civil matters based on Talmud, The Sanhedrin are being re-instated, the Third Temple being built so the Anti-Christ can come live there), highly race-oriented (The Jewish State), highly militarized (obvious), mission of expansion and conquest (not so obvious, the Zionist charter to control all of Eretz Israel, which is all of the Midle East). You might add paranoia that everyone is out to get them, or is that a tactic, a twist, to make its donors think all of the above are justified (that play can’t last). If Israel has an Enemy, an undefined and never-ending Threat, then almost anything will be justified, right?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Ellyn Harris

      I can’t understand how a report that includes the fact that Israeli citizens are being stabbed or run over by cars could be critical of the IDF response.
      If you were reporting about pacifists who only want more abuse and are looking to be continuously assaulted then of course don’t respond. Would you say run over the same number of Pals or only stab the correct number and kind of person?
      Report on what Pals are doing to create their criminal justice system.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ben

      “…It only makes sense, then, that the Israeli military be deployed to fully contain and eliminate the threat of quiet….”

      This article illuminates better than anything the sick motives that truly underlie the occupation and the cynicism and dishonesty of all the “we just want peace” and “it’s about security” claims the Israeli government uses to justify to the outside world its unceasing brutality.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Ben

      And then when that threatening quiet is successfully eliminated and the Israeli army is back in comfortable brutality mode, doing what it does best, a quiet campaign of kneecapping works swell. Don’t you just love that Capt. Nidal and Capt. Imad too? Such swell standup guys, our brave heroes, of the “mostest moralest army in the whole world”:

      Is the IDF conducting a kneecapping campaign in the West Bank?

      Reply to Comment
    7. Ben

      Of course, if you’re one of our brave soldiers, of the most moral army in the world, you can always shoot harmless Palestinians in the back, it works great, but that might trigger an pain in the ass investigation:

      No one will be convicted, it’ll be smoothed over, but what a drag. Better to shoot them in the knees. That way, as Amira Hass points out, ‘“On the news, you hear there were no fatalities, only wounded people, so everyone relaxes without realizing the suffering we’re going through,” says N., 23, in conversation with Haaretz.’

      Reply to Comment
    8. Ben

      Good, gray Haaretz wraps up the whole sick business here:

      Yet still manages, in the last sentence at the end of a damning indictment, to blandly fall back on this: “The army must stop this perverse practice, tighten its rules of engagement and must not use means that cause disability and death.”

      Well, yes, the army must stop this, but more generally the army must stop serving as the brutal handmaiden to the settlers’ vicious, crazy, messianic-nationalistic land grab.”Tightening the rules of engagement” really doesn’t cut it.

      This is why we need +972 Magazine. Only +972 and Local Call tell the whole truth, in English and in Hebrew. The inside truth. Even Haaretz, aside from Gideon Levy and Amira Hass, is, despite its general excellence, too comfortably ensconced in and dependent upon the Israeli Zionist power structure to truly challenge the powers that be.

      Reply to Comment