+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

How money vanishes into thin air during a West Bank raid

When Murad Albaden was woken up one morning by Israeli soldiers and police officers, he had no idea they were going to raid his home, destroy his furniture and take his money.

By Yossi Gurvitz for Yesh Din

One of the issues the Israeli army hardly ever discusses is looting. In the IDF’s early days, it was considered to be a grave felony. Ben-Gurion dismissed a valued officer, Uri Ben Ari, following the 1956 Sinai War, after the colonel’s driver – not the colonel himself – was caught with a looted sack of sugar. In another case during the same war, an officer by the name of Aryeh Biro threatened to shoot a fellow officer on the spot after Biro caught him looting. Journalist Nahum Barnea once documented a paratrooper captain during the First Lebanon War who ordered his soldiers to turn over their loot, lest he severely punish them. He then burned the booty before their eyes.

But that was a long time ago, when the IDF still fought regular armies, rather than an occupied population. Along the years of occupation there were quite a few reports of looting, and the IDF’s latest large operation in the West Bank, Operation Brother’s Keeper, supplied Yesh Din with a series of such reports. Yesh Din recently reported a case of looting from ‘Aqraba; here is a story from Tuqu.

Israeli soldiers blindfold and arrest a young Palestinian man in Hebron. The Israeli army rounded up hundreds of Hamas members, including journalists and parliament members, while searching for three kidnapped Israeli teens. (photo: Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers blindfold and arrest a young Palestinian man in Hebron. The Israeli army rounded up hundreds of Hamas members, including journalists and parliament members, while searching for three kidnapped Israeli teens. (photo: Activestills.org)

In the town of Tuqu, southeast of Bethlehem, lives Murad ‘Ayish Khamdan Albaden, who works as a tax collector for the municipality. Early one morning at the end of June, Albaden was awakened by strong knocking on his door. A large group of soldiers was outside, accompanied by several police officers who were not in uniform, but had police hats on.

The soldiers ordered Albaden to concentrate the family members, including three children, in one room, and then began causing massive damage to the house. They carried out an intensive search, breaking furniture and doors and smashing closets, all of which frightened his children. The undersigned once saw, during his military service, a soldier smashing a transparent glass table, saying later with a smile that he had been searching it. Such a search was carried out in Albaden’s house. It was a warrant-less search – a search without proper documentation of the search. A “search” that one could liken to a kind of intimidation, or perhaps, terrorism.

But that’s not the story. There are far too many similar stories, never mind the fact that Albaden didn’t even complain about the damage. During the search, Albaden was asked to present all the money he had in the center of the living room. There was 4,800 NIS there, 3,000 of which were tax funds Albaden had collected as part of his job (he kept the receipts) and had yet to turn over to the municipality, as well as 1,800 NIS of his own money. One of the men with the police hats took the money, but adamantly refused to give Albaden a receipt, which he is obliged to give by law during a confiscation. The man with the hat claimed he didn’t have the proper form with him. Albaden asked for a handwritten receipt; the man with the hat refused, saying Albaden should go to the Etzion District Coordination Office (DCO).

Here we should explain the difference between confiscation and looting. Confiscation is a legal act, but it must be accompanied with a document that affirms and documents the fact that the authorities have seized property. The official IDF magazine, Ba’Makhane, wrote a few days ago that the IDF confiscated some 1.2 million NIS during Operation Brother’s Keeper.

But taking property without documentation is not confiscation. There is no documentation of the seized property, and in practice, there is no way of knowing that it ended up with the authorities rather than in the hands of the person who seized it. The fact that the man with the hat refused to give Albaden a receipt, or any other document, raises grave concern that what happened here was not a confiscation but looting.

Such concerns becomes stronger when we learn what happened next. Albaden went to the police station, where they said they had no knowledge of the case and no documentation, and sent him to the Etzion DCO. There, a policeman laughed in his face and sent him back to the police.

In the meantime, 4,800 NIS – 3,000 of it belonging to the residents of Tuqu, under Albaden’s trust – is gone. The reasonable suspicion is that it was looted.

Israeli soldiers stop Palestinians at a flying check-point at the entrance to the West Bank city of Hebron, seen on June 15, 2014. A complete closure was put on the city after three Israeli teenagers went missing near a West Bank settlement. The three, all students at a Jewish seminary, went missing late on June 12 as they were hitchhiking between Bethlehem and Hebron and are believed to have been kidnapped. (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers stop Palestinians at a flying check-point at the entrance to the West Bank city of Hebron, seen on June 15, 2014. A complete closure was put on the city after three Israeli teenagers went missing near a West Bank settlement. The three, all students at a Jewish seminary, went missing late on June 12 as they were hitchhiking between Bethlehem and Hebron and are believed to have been kidnapped. (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israelis have become accustomed to defending just about anything their occupation forces do. They can, and sometimes do, defend the shooting of unarmed children, because “you don’t know what he did before that.” Looting has no operational excuse. The looter does not protect the State of Israel; he corrupts it.

The Israeli media refrained from reporting the cases of looting during the operation, even though they are known to quite a few people. This, again, is not something that can be explained away. What cannot be excused, will be dragged under the carpet. If you, too, think that looting by the security forces is something to be discussed, to be openly condemned, share this post.

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:
In search of teens, soldiers ‘looted’ Palestinian homes
How an army of defense became an army of vengeance
Looting by IDF soldiers: ‘But on the spoil, laid they not their hand’

Newsletter banner 4 - 540

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • LEAVE A COMMENT

    * Required

    COMMENTS

    1. Goldmarx

      “Israelis have become accustomed to defending just about anything their occupation forces do. They can, and sometimes do, defend the shooting of unarmed children, because “you don’t know what he did before that.” Looting has no operational excuse. The looter does not protect the State of Israel; he corrupts it.”

      Do not underestimate the perseverance of Hasbarah Central. It will find some excuse, however pathetic. Bar, JohnW or AVDim will save the day!

      Reply to Comment
      • Avdim

        @GoldenAxe

        1. This is a bit complex, so I’ll explain it slowly. My name is Vadim. The Name Vadim was banned from this site, so I swapped two letters and it became Avdim. Now please try to write my nick correctly, same as I do with yours.

        2. I don’t see any need to protect anything here. If Yossi has proof, he should present it and I hope the responsible will be punished. If he doesn’t have any shred of proof, what does he want IDF to do? To investigate what?

        If we’re collectively called Hasbarah central, what are you?

        Reply to Comment
      • JohnW

        “however pathetic. Bar, JohnW or AVDim will save the day!”

        Sorry that we are causing you such discomfort. It’s a job, but someone has to do it. Someone has to expose your lies, distortions, denials and exaggerations, Goldie.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Ben Zakkai

      “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” And so the moral rot engendered by Occupation spreads.

      Reply to Comment
      • CigarButNoNice

        I’m all for ending the occupation. As soon as the Arab colonists leave Judea and Samaria and Gaza as justice requires them to do—the land belongs to its indigenous people, who are the Jews and none other—then the occupation will end and there will be peace.

        Reply to Comment
        • Mike Panzone

          Nice try, but the Jews lost their land 2000 years ago when the Romans exiled them. By the modern era when these people were thoroughly European, the statute of limitations had run out on their claim to the land where new groups were then living. The new indigenous of the twentieth century are now those Arabs who have been there for a couple hundred to a thousand years.

          Reply to Comment
          • JohnW

            “Arabs who have been there for a couple hundred to a thousand years.”

            A couple of hundred thousand years huh?

            This says it all.

            As for the statute of limitations. It works the other way too. It will run out for the Arabs too.

            Or they will learn to share. Whichever comes first.

            Reply to Comment
    3. Richard

      Judging by the Palestinians’ previous reactions to people stealing their money, I think they’re about to paint a mural of the Israel thief right next to Yasser Arafat’s.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ray

        Considering their reaction to PLO corruption was actually to elect Hamas, it might be a little different.

        Reply to Comment
    4. You will react when your own suffer IDF’s excesses. Until then, no matter how arbitrary or atrocious their actions are, you will justify them.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Goldmarx

      I’m a supporter of this website and its struggle to expose the lies of Hasbarah Central.

      Reply to Comment
      • JohnW

        “I’m a supporter of this website and its struggle to expose the lies of Hasbarah Central.”

        How about exposing your own lies, Goldie?

        Reply to Comment

The stories that matter.
The missing context.
All in one weekly email.

Subscribe to +972's newsletter