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A grenade here, a grenade there – so they’ll learn

A 21-year-old Palestinian student was killed by Israeli army fire last week. ‘I suppose that just like myself back then, today too, soldiers shoot because that is what their sergeant ordered them to do: to teach a lesson, to remain in charge.’

By Dor Sandak

IDF soldier shooting live bullets at demonstrators in Nabi Saleh, November 2, 2012 [illustrative] (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A 21-year-old Palestinian student was killed last week by Israeli army fire near the Al Aroub refugee camp. A Molotov cocktail, stone-throwing, escape. One woman killed, two wounded.

This brings me back to 11 years ago: I was a young soldier, stationed in that precise area – Road 60, Hebron-bound, in the localities of Al Aroub and Beit Ummar.

It was late 2001, shortly after the assassination of “Ghandi” (Israeli cabinet minister Rehavam Ze’evi). We were assigned to secure a section of the road near the Jewish settlement of Karmei Tzur. We were told that the road must be “clean” in the mornings and afternoons when the Jewish settlers from Karmei Tzur drive to and from Jerusalem for work. “Clean,” meaning devoid of Palestinians.

So, what’s the problem? The problem is that 15,000 Palestinians live in the nearby refugee camp of Al Aroub and the village of Beit Ummar. At the time, Palestinians were not permitted to travel on Road 60, except for taxis and vehicles with special permits. But they still had to go about their everyday lives, getting from home to school, to work and to the hospital, which they did by walking along the side of the road. Life, you know.

So how does one keep the road “clean”? Gunfire.

And that’s how it was. At the same time every morning, several forces – either on jeeps or on foot – would set about carrying out this “cleaning” mission. Every group of soldiers had one weapon suited for firing rubber bullets (filled with steel pellets) and a good number of teargas canisters and stun grenades. We would spot people walking along the roadside and throw a grenade at them as we drove past. We’d continue driving, reach some high spot overlooking the road, and stop.

“Sandak, shoot at that taxi over there.”

The first few times I would ask myself, “How come?” “Why?”, but I would still shoot, because it didn’t feel right not to. After all, the He-Man platoon commander or sergeant ordered it, so we did it. Again and again. Every day, twice a day. Drive, throw a grenade here, a grenade there, some rubber bullets into someone’s ass, so they’d learn not to be there when they shouldn’t be.

You need to understand, shooting rubber bullets is clumsy, slow and uncomfortable. So soon enough we proceeded to shoot live ammunition in the air. For example, on a foot patrol we would enter villages and shoot at window panes or solar panels, so they’d learn not to mess with us. And those rude kids would begin throwing stones after a while. Okay, now at least we had some action, some concrete target to aim at.

Shooting live fire became a daily habit. We’d go for a morning round, fire whole magazines, go crazy, throw teargas canisters (at times the wind punished us as the gas blew back in our faces). And if at first we only shot in the air at a 60-degree trajectory, after a while we were aiming directly at walls near people.

Sure enough, within two weeks two Palestinians were killed – one during a funeral procession and another during one of our “street cleanings.” The inquiries that followed were shallow. One soldier was sent to “chill out” on kitchen patrol and then returned to normal activity. The other soldier got nothing.

I describe here in scant passages a period of half a year. There were dozens of cases in which Palestinians were wounded by our rubber ammunition, and hundreds inhaled teargas on a daily basis. We would enter villages every day, chase children and youths in the hope of catching some flailing “prize” as we fired at windows and solar panels. The Wild West. Not once in that whole time were we targeted by gunfire. On one single occasion a Molotov cocktail was thrown at us and didn’t hit anyone.

In the past three weeks, at least six Palestinians have been killed by Israeli army fire. These were not terrorists. Last week it was a 21 year-old female student. But that does not matter – this is simply how it works. These are too many instances of soldiers who are quick on the trigger. I suppose that just like myself back then, today too, soldiers shoot because that is what their sergeant ordered them to do: to teach a lesson, to remain in charge.

Dor Sandak is an activist with “Breaking the Silence.”

More testimonies of opening fire at unarmed Palestinians in the Occupied Territories can be found in the “Breaking the Silence” testimony database at www.breakingthesilence.org.il

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    1. sh

      So they’ll learn.

      Today’s as good a day as any – in fact more so than any of the other 364 that will make up 2013 – to explain exactly what it is the soldiers are told “they” will learn. Could someone please do that?

      Reply to Comment
      • Similar questions are asked by Alick Isaacs in the final chapter of his book ‘Prophetic Peace’. It’s mostly a theological/philosophical treatment of peacemaking, but at the end he gives a personal account of his service in Gaza during the First Intifada. He looks specifically at the ‘we must teach them a lesson’ philosophy that drove so much of the brutality, and which he couldn’t get his head round at the time. Worth reading.

        Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        They are supposed to learn that the oppression will not ever end until they crawl away and leave.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Jan

      I felt sick as I read this. While this happened several years ago I know that the Jewish supremacists are still carrying out their acts of terrorism. The world is silent. The US keeps shelling out the money and the promises to always protect Israel. There is never one word of condemnation from the White House or State Department. The “newspaper of record,” the New York Times had not one word about the murder of the Palestinians. I know that had the dead been Israelis the news most likely would have been on Page 1.

      Furthermore had the dead been Israelis, the IDF would have once again bombed Gaza and President Obama and Hilary Clinton would have intoned that Israel has a right to defend itself.

      When will the Palestinians have that same right?

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        They’ve had and freely exercised this right for last 1500 years or so.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Palestinian

      Israel Terrorism Forces (ITF) academy:

      Chapter 2 ,Lesson 1 :

      Kill , kill and kill

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        You missed that by a 1A Whisker.

        As a matter of fact, the IDF battle manual is based on an expert’s document, specifically:

        “Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loves not transgressors. And slay them wherever you catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter… But if they cease, God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful… If they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression”

        Reply to Comment
        • Palestinian

          I checked their curriculum,it turned out they follow the blue book not the green one.

          “Now therefore Kill every male among the little ones, and Kill every woman (female) that hath known man by lying (having sex) with him.But keep Alive for yourselves all the Girls and all the women who are Virgins.”


          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Now that’s a big, phat, lie.

            If IDF indeed was following this document, there would be no remaining Palestinian Arabs alive.

            You see, Israel is capable of completely wiping the Palestine off the map within less that 12 hours, with near 100% death rate.

            It is not done yet not because Israel can not.

            Worth noticing, by the way, that if any Arab country were able to do the same it would have been done many years ago.

            Reply to Comment
        • Zephon

          You know you’ve not just lost an argument, but you’ve killed all credibility with regards to sanity, morality and ethics when your manual starts with or comprises of “Fight in the cause of God”

          LMFAO! Your IDF are a bunch of jihadi fake Jews! LOL! Thanks for the laugh. LOL!

          Fight in the name of God VS Fight in the cause of God – the perfect marriage made in hell, and a family of psychopaths.

          Reply to Comment
      • rsgengland

        The total casualty rate of Israelis and Arabs in 64 years of war and confrontation is probably less than that of the civil war in Syria over 2 years.
        (There is a group at the Finish University in Uppsala {hardly pro-Israel}that collates the data on all conflicts including this little one).
        At least the Israelis don’t teach their children to strap on explosive belts and detonate them in civilian restaurants and buses , as Hamas etc does

        Reply to Comment
        • aristeides

          Israelis teach their children to smite the Amelekites, ie follow in the footsteps of their genocidal forebears.

          Reply to Comment
          • Michael W.

            I wasn’t aware you believed in the Bible as history.

            Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            It’s not what I believe, but what is taught, which is taught as history.

            It’s really quite croggling that people can read these unequivocal accounts of genocide and think, hey, God told us to do it, let’s do it again!

            Reply to Comment
    4. directrob

      I know it is bad for moral but the IDF could start to see the Palestinians as humans and switch to Arab instead of using bullets to communicate.

      Apart from that it is very bad to let soldiers trained to kill do police work. A few English bobbies would do a much better job.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Philos

      Thanks Dor for sharing. Sadly, apart from the choir singing with you like me, nobody is listening. And, you know as well as I do, you spoke out. You’re a traitor, dafook beh’sechel. But keep on sharing brother even if no one is listening

      Reply to Comment
      • In Bethlehem there is now a ‘museum’ of local women’s stories, printed on metal sheeting and mounted on the separation wall, which the tourists can look at as they come through the pedestrian checkpoint. These are very short vignettes, more like snapshots of people’s experiences rather than extended description. It’s an interesting project. A colleague and I were recently discussing the possibility of including some ex-soldiers’ stories, to be hung on the watchtowers. Is there anything you might want to put there?

        Reply to Comment
    6. Palestinian

      K = number of people killed
      P = population
      D = number f days

      K (Syria)/ D (Syria) = 96
      K (Gaza) / P (Gaza = 66.6

      P (Syria)/ P (Gaza) = 13.2

      66.6 x 13.2 = 879 and the winner is (drum roll)… Isghael ,so Bashar is still a way behind it.

      The number of Jews killed per week (if not day) under the Nazi regime is more than the number of Jews killed in Palestine since the establishment of Israel.Whats your point ?

      Reply to Comment
    7. Rami

      So I suppose that just because you suddenly grew a heart and joined an NGO, that you’re now supposed to be absolved of the crimes you’ve committed while participating in the occupation system?

      Reply to Comment
    8. Dor

      Rami, no. I dont see myself absolved in no way for the crimes i have commited while being a soldier in the israeli army.
      I havnt joined no NGO, just gave my testimony. I am ready to pay for what i have done. Unfortunatly, i have doubt that this will help, but i surly think that those things deservs a punishment. I am to asure you that i have resigned the Israeli army few years ago and never planing to be part of it. As i am ready to be judjed, i sadly thinks that this will not stop any of the occupation processesand might be used by the Israely government as an morale cleansing act. Anyway, if you think that you want to do anything about bringing me to justice’you are welcome to contact me at dorsandak@yahoo.com.
      Good evening

      Reply to Comment
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