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Looting by IDF soldiers: 'But on the spoil, laid they not their hand'

The occupation has made us accustomed to things we never thought we’d get used to. This, basically, is the meaning of the weary expression “the occupation corrupts.” News that an IDF soldier is suspected of looting was met by the Israeli media with silence. We’re getting used to looting too, it seems.

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

IDF raids a home in Nabi Saleh on November 24, 2011 [illustrative photo] (Photo: Tamimi Press)

Among other issues, Yesh Din’s latest fact sheetreferred to an investigation of suspected looting by IDF soldiers. Here is the testimony of F., a Palestinian woman from a village in the central West Bank, on the manner in which her house was looted:

On the date of […] at about 3:45 in the morning, I was asleep and suddenly I heard banging and a loud noise from outside. I moved from the bedroom to the living room and found the soldiers in my house. The door was not locked. There were […] soldiers in the living room. My sons were in the bedroom next to the living room.

I went to the children’s room, to wake them up. The soldiers told us to get out onto the street, and wouldn’t let us wear our shoes and coats. At the height of the cold, we went outside without the coats. The little girl, she’s a year and a half old, is sick with the flu. I begged the soldier to leave her here. The soldier said “only she.” I said you can’t leave her alone, he wouldn’t agree and I went out. Once more I ran into the house, two soldiers pushed me down on the stairs; I fell down, got up, and went upstairs. I went to the girl’s bedroom. I saw a soldier standing by the open closet. I knew there was money in the closet, and looked for it. I saw it was gone and I knew it was the soldier who took it. He pushed me and hit me with his rifle. […] I went down to look for the officer and couldn’t find him, and then I saw they arrested one of the sons. […] He’s still detained today. They broke two windows, dropped the computer and broke it too. […]

In the bedroom closet was a [large sum of money, now missing.] The house was messy and dirty with mud. As far as I am concerned, all the damage was predictable. The thing that hurt me most was taking the little children outside, in the cold, and seeing their fear. […] My husband went to work (a taxi driver who drives workers early in the morning) and the soldiers captured him when he left the house, took him to the center of the village where they undressed him and left two soldiers to watch over him. I kept calling him and he wasn’t answering. In the end they brought him back.” The deletions in the text mark information known only to the victim and the culprit, and were removed so as not to harm the chances of prosecution.

After many years of violent conflict, most Israelis have hardened their hearts to the point that they will effortlessly make excuses for just about anything mentioned here. Taking children outside, on a freezing morning, without coats? Who knows what they were hiding in those coats. Leaving a sick, terrified infant without her mother? We can’t know what they would cook up together. Pushing a woman who is old enough to be their mother, until she falls? Well, it’s a stressful situation, the soldiers were stressed. Who knows what danger they were in. Don’t judge them until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. Assaulting F. with a rifle butt as she was returning home? Look, she went there despite the orders she received, and if we allow just anyone to do that we’d be in danger. The arrest of the son? Surely you don’t suggest they arrest people for no reason.

But here, the excuses end. There are very few people who would be willing to defend the breaking of windows or the destruction of computers. They would support the confiscation of the computer, because you can’t know what sort of dastardly information was stored on it and if it was confiscated it must be for a good reason, etc. But breaking it is senseless violence, and defending it would demand serious loss of humanity.

So, too, in the case of looting. Violence against persons, against women and children in their own house – and make no mistake, breaking into a family’s house is violent in any case – would find plenty of justifications, often fantastical ones. But taking money, the savings of a poor family? For this, unless the eye is blind and the heart is hardened, you won’t find many justifiers.

The IDF’s war tradition, based often on the Bible – this post’s title is taken from the Book of Esther, and it appears just after a major massacre – forbade looting and often punished it severely. IDF tradition tells us that Colonel Uri Ben Ari, the triumphant commander of the 7th Brigade in the Sinai War, was deposed shortly after the war. Ben Ari himself was not implicated in looting, but his driver pillaged a sack of sugar and claimed Ben Ari was aware of it. When Brig. Gen. Aryeh Biro confessed to killing bound Egyptian prisoners of war during that same war, he also said he nearly shot one of his officers whom he caught looting. Even as late as the First Lebanon War, one company commander ordered his troops out of their vehicles prior to returning to Israel, ordered them to give him all their loot, then set it on fire.

The occupation is accompanied by many incidents of looting. The larger ones, of course, are carried out by the full majesty of the state: every building of a settlement, every outpost, every confiscation of structures or land for “operational necessity” which isn’t, is looting. But many, many other incidents are carried out by individual soldiers. Sometimes it is indirect: it is expressed as an adamant demand for a “discount” on the part of a Palestinian merchant (which is why in the 1980s many commanders forbade all dealings between soldiers and Palestinians). Often it was much clearer: a Civil Administration soldier telling the Palestinian whose papers he is examining that his pen is very nice, and the Palestinian passes it over silently. In our case, the crime is anything but silent.

The occupation has made us accustomed to many things we never thought we’d get used to. This, basically, is the meaning of the weary expression “the occupation corrupts.” News that an IDF soldier is suspected of looting was met by the Israeli media with silence. We’re getting used to looting too, it seems.

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.

WATCH: Officer in Nabi Saleh night raid blames residents for ‘show’
WATCH: Soldiers raiding Palestinian homes: ‘We want peace’

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    1. “[T]aking money, the savings of a poor family? For this, unless the eye is blind and the heart is hardened, you won’t find many justifiers.”

      The excuse for this would be that the woman is lying, you can’t take her word for it. And if you were to point to soldier testimonies on looting – Shovrim Shtika have them on their website – the excuse would be that they are probably leftists lying to make Israel look bad, or just a few bad apples. You can’t take their word for it.

      Damaging possessions is probably one of the most common things of all – soldiers yanking out drawers, slinging the contents on the floor without any regard for breakables, pulling stuff out of the refrigerator and trampling it, etc. – and of course the excuse for this would be, “They’re searching, they have to search.”

      There is always an excuse for everything (although most defenders of occupation policy do seem to have their own personal weak spot that will cause them to waver slightly in their enthusiastic defending, once it’s hit).

      Reply to Comment
    2. arieh

      So, in the night raid, the soldiers knew that in that house was big money hidden in the closet, from all the actions that they have to performed, first, to loot, second, to degrade the members of the hose if possible the children, to hit the father, then destroy all you can.This is what I see and if someone had be in a patrol you know that all the inferences are bullshit, meal for desinformation and to spread the image of terror and violence. Please try better ways for degrading human being in the form of a soldier…arieh

      Reply to Comment
      • Zephon

        Imbecile, they searched her house. In their search they went through her closet and they found money – and took it. Happy? You need things to be spelled out for you do you? Idiot.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Palestinian

      Well ,they steal land, body organs,water , homes , money , jewelry , laptops, cameras , credit cards ,history ,culture hey maybe its part of their school curriculum …

      Reply to Comment
        • Oriol2

          Ehem… they say that the best political humor comes from the right. I am sorry, Vadim, but that’s not always true.

          Reply to Comment
          • Vadim

            No need to apologize.

            I did not post a joke, just some information about Palestinian history.

            Reply to Comment
        • Palestinian

          What Zionists ? Oh you mean the European immigrants/thieves/terrorists who flooded Palestine in the 20th century ,ok

          Reply to Comment
      • Come On!
        We have only one side of the story.
        Isn’t it true that the family of Hamas Martyrs are getting 10000 USD for their “devotion”?

        In this case, maybe the mum has a son who decided to blow him up…in this case the search of this sum is totally justified…

        Reply to Comment
    4. aristeides

      To the victim, it makes little practical difference whether their possessions are stolen, broken or befouled. Only to the oppressors is there a difference, a tacit acknowledgment that the theft is a crime, but to wreck and vandalize is nothing.

      Reply to Comment
    5. If loss of life and maiming are not redressed to what extent possible, nor the perpretators punished, one cannot expect violence of lesser long term import to be scrutinized. Degrading life through blindness evolves.

      To repeat something I’ve related earlier: David Hume warned us that what can be abused will eventually be abused. As the opportunities for abuse multiply, so too their realization. Only independent oversight on the IDF can change this; on the outside, an autonomous, dedicated oversight might be tried, but I now have doubts if such is possible.

      Reply to Comment
    6. William Leavenworth

      This sort of behavior will ultimately destroy Israel more thoroughly than the enmity of occupied Arabs. It will destroy support for Zionism in every decent country, and if AIPAC supports this behavior in the IDF, then American politicians who take their orders on Israeli affairs from AIPAC are traitors. Support J Street, and Free occupied Palestine.

      Reply to Comment
      • Vadim

        1. Nobody supports this kind of behavior.
        2. Do IDF soldiers loot more than other soldiers? Less? Does it make a difference? There was once a “study” that tried to claim that IDF soldiers rape less than others because they are racist. Would you think better about IDF soldiers if someone will show you they loot less than others? Rape less than others?
        3. Germany has started 2 world wars and murdered millions, England has conquered and colonized half the world, Syria has killed tens of thousands in the recent month. When’s the next symposium titled “A world without Syria”? Or a lecture about “England – was it worth it?”? Or book about “Germany’s right to exist”? Israel’s crimes, numerous as they are – are nothing compared to the ones mentioned above. Yet it seems natural for people to discuss Israel’s destruction, Zionism’s death or a world without Israel.
        Like any other country, Israel can be destroyed by a civil war or by a war with another country. Unlike other countries, Israel could also be destroyed by unexplained pathological hatred that was once known as Antisemitism.

        Reply to Comment
        • aristeides

          Dragging out the old “somebody else somewhere is worse” excuse?

          Reply to Comment
          • Vadim

            Nothing of the sort. Please pay attention to what I say.

            Israel commits crimes and makes mistakes. Every country does, some more and some less.

            I do not claim our crimes are washed by the crimes of others. I claim that our crimes should be treated the same as those of others. Anything else is hypocrisy.

            That is why I amazed. People portray Israel’s crimes as so enormous that they warrant to question our right to exist.

            Suppose you’re a person who doesn’t question Germany’s right to exist because of WW2, or USA’s right because of Vietnam. But you question Israel’s place in the world. Can you honestly say you treat Israel justly?

            Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            Far from “not questioning Germany’s right to exist,” Germany was actually dismembered as a state because of its crimes. So I don’t think you’re using a fruitful comparison.

            Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            “People portray Israel’s crimes as so enormous that they warrant to question our right to exist.”

            To answer that straight-up, people view Israel’s crimes as a necessity to maintaining the demographic-gerrymandering that makes it possible to call Israel a “Jewish” state. Hence, some of them might start to question the right of a demographic state to exist.

            Reply to Comment
          • “Our Government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that in the administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means—to declare that the Government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal—would bring terrible retribution. Against that pernicious doctrine this Court should resolutely set its face.”
            Justice Louis D. Brandeis, dissenting
            Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928)
            [Brandeis was a Zionist]

            I speak NOT against Israel but FOR its constitution.

            Reply to Comment
        • andrew r

          Why does Israel exist as a Jewish state now? Because an armed group called the Haganah expelled the Palestinians during the 1948 war. As early as 1908 the political leadership of the Zionist movement adopted the aim of making colonial-settlers the majority population of Palestine; they resorted to forced expulsion because mass immigration wasn’t sufficient.

          Equating the return of the Palestinians with destruction is cynical on a few levels. It’s an abuse of the persecution Jews suffered in Europe. The Palestinians who are persecuted by Zionism become would-be persecutors of Jews, adding a layer of vicarious revenge (on the Nazis) to the material benefit of dispossessing them in the first place. There’s also the racist rationale that the returning Palestinians would behave like the Syrian regime because they’re all Arabs and Arabs are genetically-born killers (Nevermind that the Palestinians in Syria are caught in the middle).

          It isn’t antisemitism that makes the end of Israel as a Jewish state an acceptable topic; it’s the fact that most of the rightful citizens of Israel are in exile because the colonial regime wants a certain demographic balance heavily in favor of Jews.

          Reply to Comment
          • Vadim

            “Why does Israel exist as a Jewish state now?”

            Because Jews deserve a state of their own and had the capability to create one.

            “There’s also the racist rationale that the returning Palestinians would behave like the Syrian regime because they’re all Arabs and Arabs are genetically-born killers”

            Nonsense. That’s just your perverted interpretation. Returning Palestinians will cause a civil war. One already took place here and that’s why the UN has decided to partition the Land of Israel. Civil wars occur anywhere you’ll put two hostile populations in one country. Now, you may wish for this because of some perverted sense of “justice”. I do not.

            “It isn’t antisemitism that makes the end of Israel as a Jewish state an acceptable topic”

            I disagree.

            Your whole reasoning about colonialism and “rightful citizens” implies you do not believe a Jewish state has a right to exist. If Syrians deserve a state, if Jordanians (with 70% Palestinians) and Egyptians deserve a state, if Germans and everybody else deserve a state. Then yes – by all means, Jews deserve a state as well.

            Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            Vadm – the problem isn’t Jews “deserving” a state. The problem is that the state a few Jews decided to found was based on taking the land from an existing population, expelling half of it, and keeping the other half under the sort of regime that sends armed thugs into homes in the middle of the night.

            No, “the Jews” don’t deserve a state on those terms.

            Reply to Comment
    7. Philos

      I have a feeling Yisrael Sheli, Stand With Us and Hasbara Fellowships are sending their earnest young commandos to practice on +972mag by trolling every single article. The sad thing is that it doesn’t matter which website one goes to; the Hasbara trolls defile the comments section with their ad hominen attacks, infuriating off topic posts, and general odious racism against Palestinians. Someone should set-up a blog recording all the most heinous comments in English and Hebrew to be centralized to one place. Maybe we can shame the “philanthropists” who fund these groups

      Reply to Comment
      • they have no shame, hence why they say said disgusting things

        but you can always count on Zionist Jews to justify any vile act

        what is needed is to show ordinary Americans how vile Zionist Jews can be to counter to image of Israel as an innocent victim (Jewish pinata)

        Reply to Comment
      • Vadim

        I have a feeling that some people cannot stand opinions they disagree with. Their world is a simple black and white, where people who disagree with them are trolls, sent by various organizations to “defile” the comments section.

        Isn’t it (a bit) ironic that someone calls others “trolls” and accuses them of “ad hominen attacks” without providing an example? Or accusing them of “infuriating off topic posts” inside an off topic post? Isn’t it ironic that someone who opposes racism then says “you can always count on Zionist Jews to justify any vile act”?

        Reply to Comment
      • dickerson3870

        RE: “I have a feeling Yisrael Sheli, Stand With Us and Hasbara Fellowships are sending their earnest young commandos to practice on +972mag by trolling every single article.” ~ Philos

        ~ ~ ~ JIDF 4chan operations for Feb 2011 ~ ~ ~
        Jewish Internet Defense Force (offsite) – http://www.thejidf.org/
        This upcoming February we will be launching our largest operationon 4chan and other popular image boards, our objective is to create an image of Palestinians and Lebanese being virulently anti-American and anti-Western.
        • Create threads against Israel and fill them with posts from violent Jihadist Palestinians, claim to want to immigrate into the West to do Jihad, later on in the threads post links to propaganda films like Pallywood.
        • Exploit massive Lebanese immigration into Australia as a reason why the Australian people should support Israel.
        • Claim that Israel helps stop Muslim immigration into the West.
        • Post propaganda threads linking to Palestinian and Lebanese suicide bombers and other Muslim extremism, in these threads also reply as a Jew who has been affected by Jihadist violence, explain to the readers that Muslims are a threat to the West.
        • Start threads claiming to be Lebanese-Americans or Palestinian-Englanders, portray yourselves as extremely anti-Israel, later on in these threads claim to be a Jew disgusted by the behavior of the Lebanese/Palestinian man.
        MD5: 98bc2f5ba195396e3958bcec640a4292-7-6-6-2-5-8-2-1-8-9-3-6-7-8-4-5-6
        SOURCE – http://niqnaq.wordpress.com/2011/01/08/amateur-or-professional/

        Reply to Comment
    8. dickerson3870

      Occupation corrupts.
      Absolute (total) occupation corrupts absolutely!

      Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth” is one long example of how power corrupts. That is basically the premise of the play: ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’.
      At the beginning of the play Macbeth is a good man, a well respected soldier and a loving husband – all of that is destroyed once he becomes king.
      Lady Macbeth is also seduced by the idea of her husband having power, however it doesn’t sit too well with her after the fact.

      Reply to Comment
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