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How does the army please settlers? By upping its violence

When the settlers of Halamish complained that the IDF isn’t being violent enough, a brigadier-general assured them that he orders his troops to use unnecessary force against Palestinians. 

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

Near the Palestinian villages of Dir Nizam and Nabi Salah lies a settlement named Halamish, also known as Neve Tsuf.

About a month ago, after Palestinians threw stones at their vehicles, the settlers of Halamish took the law into their own hands and began “securing” the road leading to the settlement. The IDF didn’t like the initiative, but – lo and behold – did not use its legal authority against Israeli civilians carrying out military actions on their own initiative. Instead, it sent the commander of the AYOSH (Area of Judea and Samaria) Division, Brig. General Tamir Yadai, to talk to the lawbreakers.

Settlement of Halamish, next to Nabi Saleh (Activestills)

The settlement of Halamish, next to the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh. (photo: Activestills)

This conversation, published on the website of the Hebrew daily Makor Rishon (and which includes recordings) is very interesting for several reasons. Take, for instance the comment by Gen. Yadai after a short lecture about the differences between the military situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (listen at 4:37 in the first recording):

I don’t want to say that we changed the rules of engagement, but we became a bit harsh with the people around here; in places where we’d fire [tear] gas or rubber [bullets] in the past, now we fire Ruger [bullets], and sometimes live [bullets]. If I remember the numbers correctly, we’ve had something like 25 people hurt here in the last three weeks.

Hold it. If firing tear gas or rubber bullets was sufficient in the past, what necessitated the change? According to Yadai, nothing changed and the threat level vis-à-vis the soldiers did not increase in any way. So what did change? Well, the atmosphere in the IDF, for one. The army decided to teach the Palestinians a lesson, and therefore increased the level of violence it uses towards themregardless of the threat they represent. The brigadier-general’s comments are not empty ones – they are mere attempts to boast. B’Tselem, which noticed Yadai’s comment, recorded a series of such shooting incidents [Hebrew].

The Ruger is a .22 caliber rifle, colloquially known in Hebrew as “Tutu,” whose bullet is a relatively weak live one. Rifles are, how shall I put it, deadly weapons. When Gen. Yadai orders his troops to use a Ruger rifle or live bullets against demonstrators, he is using a deadly weapon that puts their lives at risk, especially when he knows such risk is unwarranted. Prior to his new orders, the IDF faced the same level of violence, but used rubber bullets (which may still be deadly, but the likelihood of death is smaller) and tear gas (which are not deadly except in rare cases – but may cause significant damage; and when the canister is fired using dead reckoning, i.e. directly at the victim, it may cause grievous bodily harm and even death).

An Israeli sniper aims a silenced Ruger 10/22 rifle from a tower in the separation wall in the West Bank town of Bethlehem during clashes with Palestinian youth, March 11, 2014. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

An Israeli sniper aims a silenced Ruger 10/22 rifle from a tower in the separation wall in the West Bank town of Bethlehem during clashes with Palestinian youth, March 11, 2014. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Yadai doesn’t “want to say we changed the rules of engagement.” But in practice that is exactly what he did. Why? Considering the time and place where he made his comment, we fear that the IDF changed its rules of engagement in order to pacify the settlers. Yadai even boasted before them over the number of Palestinian wounded.

What we see here is Yadai’s attempts to defend the IDF’s actions to the settlers after the latter took part in unauthorized activity. The Mateh Binyamin Regional Council’s website reported the events in these words:

Following the escalation of security incidents on the roads surrounding Neve Tsuf, which did not receive an adequate response by the security forces, the residents of the Neve Tsuf began securing the roads independently. The residents emphasized the problematic areas, as well as the critical hours in which residents drive to work and return home. The residents’ local committee notes that the Arab rioters in the area throw stones at all hours, but often from the same points. Therefore, the residents decided to take these positions which control the road, including the hill of Dir Nizam, the hills of ‘Abud and the hills of Dir Abu Mash’al. The committee of Neve Tsuf reported that as long as the feeling of security is not restored to the roads and the region, the activities for the security of the residents will continue, and that they may even consider further action.

Immediately following the incident, and prior to the meeting between Yadai and the settlers of Halamish, our attorney, Adv. Rony Pelli, sent a strong letter to the Commander of the Central Command and the Legal Counsel of AYOSH. She wrote, inter alia:

The expected dangers from such an act ought not to be discounted. This announcement of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council indicates an explicit intent to carry out violent offenses by the residents of the Neve Tsuf settlement on the roads near the settlement, contrary to law.

Regarding Yesh Din’s latest report about the civilian security coordinators, Pelli further noted that ” the privatization of law enforcement is taking another step forward. Not only Civilian Security Coordinators, but every resident of the settlement now considers themselves in charge of law and order enforcement.”

We were not yet aware of Yadai’s comments at the time Pelli’s comments were made . The IDF responded to her letter by writing that, “The IDF is using all the tools at its disposal, as required, in order to protect all the residents of the area, Palestinians and Israelis alike,” and that “along to speaking with the residents of the settlement, IDF forces carry out, together with the Israeli Police, actions to prevent this phenomenon.” According to the army, this includes “interrogating the participants in incidents where suspicion of law breaking arises.”

Settlers throw stones at Palestinians as IDF soldiers stand by in the West Bank village of Asira al Qibliya. April 30, 2013 (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Settlers throw stones at Palestinians as IDF soldiers stand by in the West Bank village of Asira al Qibliya. April 30, 2013 (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

But the story does not end here. At that very same event where Yadai took pride in the fact that his forces shot about 25 people without due cause, sat a woman named Yael. Yael is described as a resident of the settlement for the past 31 years. According to the article, she says that the settlers, “learned in the past that only when they take matters into their own hands, is there some quiet for a long time. There was stone throwing – heaters were blown up in the village. There was stone throwing – some of their windows were broken. No one harmed anyone physically, everyone made certain only property was damaged. I believe in collective punishment and it’s a fact that following that we had six months of quiet.”

According to Yael, the residents asked her to relay a message that they do not want the IDF interfering with their activities:

You do your job, if you think you know how to do it, go for it. Don’t disturb us, we want to do our job and we know how to do our job. We think of every trip twice and think of scenarios – what happens if they throw stones or a Molotov cocktail, which kid do I pull out of the car first. Let us do our job. There will be some mess, so what?

Yael, in other words, supports sowing fear among the Palestinian population, and even admits that she knows of these activities against “the village.” She demands that General Yade’I step aside and let her and her people act as they did in the past – harming the property of innocents in order to “get some quiet.”

And what does an IDF general do when he finds himself in the presence of an Israeli civilian who openly proclaims that she intends to harm the property of protected persons? Naturally, he does not detain her. Nor does he think of complaining to the police and turning over the information he received. Law? Justice? Yadai isn’t there as senior law enforcement officer – he is there to present a report to people who can make his life very difficult.

So, again, a reminder: the duty of the IDF is to defend protected persons and their property. And now an IDF general tells us that he gave an order to increase the level of violence against them, which looks suspiciously like a peace offering to the settlers. This behavior is not new or unusual; Yesh Din’s Road to Dispossession Report already noted that the army does not understand its duty to protect Palestinians. And the many incidents of “standing aside,” which means IDF soldiers do not stop settlers from attacking Palestinians and sometimes even aiding them, is simply a manifestation of the IDF not understanding its legal function.

The IDF claims, time and again, that it does not “choose its missions” – a claim that especially suits the army when faced with the argument that its very activity in the West Bank is political (this claim is often used against conscientious objectors). But General Yadai shows us precisely how the IDF does choose its missions: it chooses not to use its legal authority against Jewish rioters, even when they are on the brink of rebellion, and it uses violence against Palestinians even when, by its own admission, it is unnecessary.

The IDF pretends to uphold the law in the West Bank; time and again, it uses the expression “illegal demonstration” or “disturbing the peace.” Listen to Yadai: this is how the AYOSH Division Commander views the law – this is what he views as order.

This is what the IDF protects, but it has nothing to do with upholding the law.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

Related:
WATCH: Soldiers protect settlers attacking West Bank village
Settler violence: It comes with the territory
Collaboration between IDF, settlers reaching point of no return

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    COMMENTS

    1. Jello

      “About a month ago, after Palestinians threw stones at their vehicles, the settlers of Halamish took the law into their own hands and began “securing” the road leading to the settlement.”

      In other words, the whole story starts with the Arabs trying to kill Jews on the roads.

      Reply to Comment
      • Weiss

        The settlements are ILLEGAL so there is NO justification for these extremist FASCIST settlers and their brutal IDF protectors to be there in the first place.

        Israeli brutality …

        And yet ANOTHER reason why I am Ashamed to be Jewish.

        And the list just keeps growing…

        Reply to Comment
        • Jello

          If your opinion is that Jews have no right to live in their ancestral homeland then it is your full right to such an opinion. I disagree with you and don’t particularly care if you are ashamed to be a Jew.

          In the meantime the Arabs are trying to kill Jews on the road and the author is complaining that the Jews are defending themselves. That is the bottom line of the article.

          Oh, and, no, I am not in the least bit ashamed of Jews defending themselves unlike the weak sellouts like you that are looking to other people for affirmation.

          Reply to Comment
          • Weiss

            Jews definitely have a right to live in their ancestral homeland, but not every single square inch of the occupied West Bank Schlomo.

            Stop being so greedy and give someone else a chance to have a life too.

            Got news for ya:
            God is NOT a real estate agent.

            Reply to Comment
          • Jello

            The ‘West Bank’ is part and parcel of the homeland of the Jewish people. If the Arabs try to attack Jews anywhere in the homeland of the Jewish people I support the Jews in defending themselves. People like you would rather see the Jews killed by rocks thrown at moving cars by Arabs.

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            Blah blah blah. The illegal settlements themselves are an attack upon the Palestinians in their homeland. I’m never gonna split a pizza with you. You’d take eight of the ten slices and keep gobbling up the two slices left all the while I, with an empty stomach, would be watching you across the dining table telling me in between your chewing, lipsmacking and burping that we are “negotiating” a long term interim pizza slice solution.

            Reply to Comment
          • Pedro X

            Mr. Mondo Weiss Israel does not seek every inch of its ancestral lands in Judea and Samaria.

            The two Schlomos, Barak and Olmert offered the Palestinian Arabs 95% of Israelis’ ancestral lands in Judea and Samaria with swaps of land in Israel making up the other 5%. The Olmert deal came with gold plated toilet seats but the Palestinians would not even answer Olmert’s or Barak’s offers because they were not interested in a conflict ending agreement which would result in two states, a Jewish state and a Palestinian Arab state, living in peace with each other.

            Reply to Comment
          • Felix Reichert

            That’s not what happened. And you know it.

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            Here’s the real deal on what happened between Olmert and Abbas. Should forever retire the misinformation peddled about Abbas. And put into correct perspective Netanyahu’s rejectionism. It also provides a nice summary, complete with a simple, useful map, of the problem with Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim and Efrat:

            http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/magazine/13Israel-t.html?pagewanted=all.&_r=0

            A Plan for Peace That Still Could Be
            By BERNARD AVISHAI

            Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            Such generosity is incredible. A failed UN partition proposal suggested that the Jewish state have 55% of Mandate Palestine. You conquered 72% in 1948 and the remainder in 1967. Then two governments that may not actually have had the political authority to carry through supposedly offer the Palestinians 95% of the Palestinians ancestral homelands, but no-one can be exactly sure because you refused to produce a map of what was actually “on offer” and also insisted on retaining the Jordan Valley at least temporarily.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            Nonsense, Weiss. No one has a right to live in a territory that their putative ancestors left centuries ago, if this means dispossessing and expelling the population that replaced them also centuries ago. Were such a principle to exist the world would be sheer anarchy, with Greeks invading and occupying Turkey, Italy and North Africa and Americans invading Spain, the UK, France, Germany, Poland and many other lands. It may be reasonable to ask that someone who feels a strong ancestral or cultural link to a particular land should be allowed to immigrate to that land and make a home there, subject to the laws of that land, but this is certainly no right. You disappoint me that someone who so consistently stands up for principles of truth, freedom and justice can repeat such nonsense. There is also of course the huge question, if you posit a right of return, of where the boundaries of the homeland are, since Jews have made their homes for countless centuries (and in some cases for longer than they ever lived in Palestine) throughout South-east Asia, North Africa and Southern Europe.

            Reply to Comment
          • Leslie Stanick

            People seem to forget that the land that is now Israel was the ancestral home of Palestinians too. Teen age boys throwing rocks is not killing settlers. But Israeli machine guns, snipers and bombs have killed thousands of Palestinians.

            Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        Had some recent immigrants from New York come over and destroyed your ancestral olive groves than I guess you would have been tempted to toss a few stones in their direction, or would you have unleashed your tanks, your drones, your phosphorus bombs, and perhaps even the odd nuclear weapon towards them?

        Reply to Comment
    2. J.B.

      I believe the correct term is “rubber-coated steel projectiles”, not “rubber bullets”.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Pedro X

      Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria are solely portrayed in a negative light so that when residents who have been under Arab attacks for decades try to secure the road to their community they are labelled as criminals, instead of those attacking them.

      The article does not speak to the stone attacks, Molotov Cocktail attacks, the shooting attacks, the stabbing attacks, the attempted terrorist infiltrations into the community and the successful murder of citizens of Judea and Samaria by Arabs. It was only last year that a Fogel family slaying disaster in Neve Tsuf was averted after Palestinian terrorists infiltrated a Israeli home.

      Recently, reporter Yehuda Yifrach on February 12, 2015 described an attack on himself by Arab youths while driving to the Gush Etzion junction.

      “One of the them took a large rock and threw it right in the direction of my face. I quickly took evasive action, braking and turning left in order to get away from the gang. It helped me avoid the rock, but I nearly got into a head-on collision with an oncoming truck.” and

      “So now I have to do some car repair. But there is no doubt this was attempted murder, plain and simple. Murder is murder, even if it is committed by kids on their way to high school.”

      So maybe the police and IDF need to step up the severity of their response to calculated attempts of murder by Arabs since previous actions have not worked in stopping these threats.

      Now while some Arabs attack community residents, many Arabs seek help from these same communities in time of medical need. However, 972mag does not cover the compassion and care shown by these Israelis in Judea and Samaria for Arabs in need.

      The community of Neve Tsuf was sitting Shiva with the grandparents of the Fogel children who had their throats slit by Palestinian Arabs. Meanwhile a Palestinian woman and her unborn child were in medical jeopardy. The Palestinians turned to the community of Neve Tsuf to provide life saving care to the woman and her baby. In 2012 a Palestinian father accidentally ran over one of his children. He took the child to Neve Tsuf for first response care. The same year two Palestinian workers were seriously injured in a fall and the Palestinians brought the workers to Neve Tsuf for immediate treatment.

      United Hatzallah and MDA often supply first responder service to Arabs in Judea and Samaria without discrimination. Of course the ambulances of these very organizations have been subject of Palestinian attacks.

      Why is it that 972mag does not cover Israeli help to Arabs?

      Reply to Comment
      • Brian

        First of all, your supposedly “balanced” counter examples are inherently misleading in terms of frequency and quality; second of all, got any data?, any proof for your tales other than the odd anecdote about warm grandfatherly settlers who deliver human babies when they’re not ripping out olive tree saplings which is most of the time; and thirdly, that’s not what the article is about. Pedro X I should come onto this site every morning and kvetch about how come the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom never cover what +972 just did, because that’s the equivalent of what you do.

        Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X

          Brian here is an one week report, June 9 -17, from Hatzollah medical response team in Judea and Samaria during the quiet period of 2013:

          “During the past week there have been dozens of attempted murders of Jews by shooting incidents, rocks, Molotov cocktails, stabbing attempts and by miracle only 3 injured moderately. ….

          Partial report of the Molotov cocktail attacks:

          2 towards IDF post near Shekef, 2 at Nebe Zalach, 1 at bus at Bet Umar, 1 at Parsa Junction, 3 at Kever Rachel, 2 at Tunnel Road, 1 that hit and entered the pillbox at Shoafat, 2 at IDF Force in Azoria, 2 towards Bet Hadassah, Abud bypass north-west of Ramallah at car, Gush Etzion-Hevron Highway near Bet Umar at bus, fortunately although it hit the bus it did not explode .

          *Shooting attack towards bus between IDF Base of 3rd Division and the Shomron Brigade Base

          *Shooting attack towards military ambulance in Southern Hevron Hills

          *Explosive Device at Border Police in Svacharah, explosive device at IDF Force at Parah Village, explosive device at Border Police force at Abu Dis

          *Stabbing attack foiled at 160 Turn in Hevron and additional stabbing attack foiled at Calandia Passage

          *Pistol revealed in Arab car near Rimonim

          *Car overturned as a result of rock attack at the turn off of the Spring between Carmei Zur and Halhul – the car was mistakenly identified as Jewish but was in fact Arab

          *During the night of 16.6 there were a number of attempts by Arabs to steal water and the water pipes were damaged in 3 places. Cubic millions of water are stolen on a regular basis.

          *Bottle of paint was thrown at bus with tourists south of Shechem damaging the bus

          And a reminder of some of the locations where Israeli cars are attacked by rocks:

          Security fence of Kiryat Arba, El Fuar, Pharmacy check-post- Hevron, Bet Romano, Cross Judean Highway, Hevron –Kiryat Arba Highway, El Hadar, Bet Umar, near Carmei Zur, El ARub, near Tekoa, near Ofra, Sin’jil, near Givat Asaf, Hizma, between Na’aleh and the Postman Junction, between Dotan and Rechan, Qalandia passage, Azoria, Azun, between Elkana and Ariel and more…….”

          And these attacks took place during a period of low tension.

          Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X

          Here are stats from Hatzollah for the first 6 months of 2012. There were 5644 attacks against Jews in Judea and Samria. Out of these attacks there was an average of 100 fire bomb attacks a month (3 per day) and 850 rock attacks a month (28 per day).

          http://myrightword.blogspot.ca/2013/07/security-events-simmary-1-62013.html

          OCHA said for the whole year of 2013 there were 399 attacks against Arabs. So for every attack against an Arab there are more than 20 attacks against Jews in Judea and Samaria.

          And this was in a period of low conflict.

          Reply to Comment
          • Felix Reichert

            LOL. Pedro spinning the facts again.

            “Attacks against Arabs” sure as fuck don’t count attacks, kidnappings, etc. by the Israeli Attack Force, do they?

            “There were 5644 attacks against Jews in Judea and Samria.”

            Or, you know, there were 5644 attacks against the illegal occupiers. They weren’t attacked because they’re Jews. You know it.

            I’m guessing these numbers are completely blown out of proportion either way.

            Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        “Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria are solely portrayed in a negative light” – and why would that be; perhaps you can explain; international lawyers decided a very long time ago that transferring your civilian population into territories you have conquered is a crime against humanity – why on earth do you continue to do it and then whinge about people not approving of your illegality.

        Reply to Comment
      • Pedro X

        You should tell the truth Bruce, many incidents complained about have been carried out by Arabs and left wing activists staging damage and blaming it on citizens of Israel in Judea and Samaria. Here is the smoking gun:

        “Kaniel persuaded K to document the provocateurs who stage the price attacks instead of confronting them, and this is precisely what he did Tuesday, when he encountered a group of Arabs staging a “price tag” attack, not far from the Jewish town of Eli, in Samaria (Shomron).

        “K was shocked to see a group of Arabs chopping down dozens of olive trees. Some wore Red Crescent vests, in the hope that this would allow them to enjoy a kind of immunity.

        What they were doing was clearly suspicious, Kaniel said.

        “This is not pruning carried out after the harvest, in which smaller branches are cut off,” he told Arutz Sheva. “They chopped down the trees at the trunk.”

        “We are talking about dozens of trees,” he added. “K. almost cried when he told me about it.”

        See this sad story of Palestinians creating lies on the ground.

        http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/176599

        Reply to Comment
        • Felix Reichert

          I’m guessing that means that Settlers never uprooted Palestinian trees, it’s all just Pallywood. Am I right?

          I mean after all Palestinians are born liars and cheats, as we all know thanks to you, Pedro.

          Reply to Comment
        • Brian

          Thanks for the comic relief. Everyone should read the article in full and decide for themselves how credible they think “K” is and whether what “K” has provided is in any way “evidence” and whether Arutz Sheva can be considered a reputable purveyor of journalism. I find the article comical in its pretensions.

          Reply to Comment
    4. Bar

      Jello won this debate with his first comment at the top.

      Reply to Comment
      • Brian

        Well. Actually, contrary to Jello’s assertion, the whole story starts with a settlement. A settlement named Halamish, lying near the Palestinian villages of Dir Nizam and Nabi Salah. Yossi Gurvitz won. All the rest is commentary.

        Reply to Comment
    5. C.C. DeVille

      Why can’t the Palistinians get their olives at Whole,Foods like normal,people?

      Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        Your remarkable facility for self-parody is the most endearing thing about you CCDV.

        Reply to Comment
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