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Military police must decide: Is the IDF a gang or an army?

Youth from the village of Qaddum were shocked to find themselves featured on a threatening IDF poster. Will the army severely punish those responsible?

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

Two Palestinian boys age 14 and 15 hold a poster with their own photos on it with Arabic writing that reads: “We are the army. Be careful, we will arrest you if we see you, or come to your home.” (Photo by: Shiraz Grinbaum/Activestills.org)

About two weeks ago, several youth from the village of Qaddum were shocked to discover their photos and names appear on a placard posted near the mosque, which presented the following threat: “We are the army, dir balaq, we’ll catch you should we see you, or we’ll come to your house.” The affair was exposed in the +972. The placard was written in bad Arabic. “Dir Balaq” is roughly translated as “be careful.”

According to the testimonies of Qaddum’s residents, three IDF jeeps stopped next to the mosque in the late morning of Friday, May 31. Ten soldiers or more disembarked, and began posting the placards. A, a 16-year-old high school student, told a Yesh Din investigator that “I was shocked by seeing my picture and the threat against me. I panicked and now I am always afraid the army will capture me. My brothers are also scared and my mom cries. I can’t sleep. I haven’t returned to school since it happened and I’ve missed a final exam.”

A’s father, M., told Yesh Din, “I was shocked and stressed… I was fearful for the child and was afraid of his reactions. This is a worrying story. I saw my child shivering in fear. He entered a hard and restless state, and finds it hard to fall asleep. He also hasn’t gone to school since.” M. angrily added that “this is an act of terrorism, not the act of an organized army. This is the work of gangs, not of a democratic country. What do you mean, you turn a 15-and-a-half-year-old child into a wanted man?”

D., another of the minors mentioned in our brave lads’ placard, told Yesh Din, “I began shivering in fear and feared they would come right away to take me. The next day, I didn’t return to school even though there was a final exam. I hope the school will show consideration. I live in fear they will come and take me.”

The two minors asserted that they do not participate in demonstrations. A. said he had no idea how the soldiers found his photo, adding they often drive around the village, taking pictures. D. suggested they may have lifted his photo from a request for a magnetic ID card he submitted.

The threats made by the soldiers are perfectly credible. The IDF has developed a habit of raiding houses during the night in order to arrest minors for negligible offenses. Anyone suspected of throwing stones gets the treatment normally reserved for particularly dangerous criminals: an assault by heavily armed masked men on his house at night. B’Tselem published a report some two years ago detailing the routine of child detention: Violence during interrogation, avoidance of the legal duty to have an adult known to the child present during the interrogation, remand until the end of proceedings, a legal system that transcribes statements in a language unknown to the interrogated minor.

Furthermore, these actions are not coincidental: they are a part of a long and calculated campaign by the IDF intended to break popular resistance. The IDF makes it clear to the villages opposing the occupation that they will pay a price, not during the demonstrations themselves – where the media and international activists are present – but at night when they are alone, without the protection of the “IDF’s Kryptonite,” cameras. For two years now, Qaddum has held demonstrations every Friday in protest of the closure of the road leading from the village to Road 60. The IDF responds to the demonstration with its customary violence: CS gas grenades, stun grenades, spraying the demonstrators with putrid fluids (“Skunk”) and assaults against demonstrators with dogs have also been also documented. In days when there are no demonstrations, the army enters the villages from time to time in order to shoot in the air, throw stun and gas grenades, take people out of their homes at night and generally show the population who’s top dog.

Given all that, one has to agree with M.: such behavior as that which took place at the beginning of June in Qaddum is reserved for gangs or terror organizations. True, the anarchists demonstrating in the West Bank have long chanted “Ain’t nothing you can do/the IDF is a terror organization,” but one would have expected the IDF soldiers to refrain from proving them right.

The IDF quickly claimed that a group of soldiers acting on their own initiative produced the pamphlets. Maybe. The testimonies speak of more than 10 soldiers and three vehicles. This is a bit large for an independent action by a few angry soldiers. Was their company commander aware of their initiative? If he wasn’t, how can an officer keep his post when he failed to notice his soldiers involve the army in a comparison to gangs and terror organizations? If he did know, and turned a blind eye – and I insist on believing, until proof emerges, that this couldn’t have been authorized – shouldn’t he be put on trial, to be dishonorably discharged (after a suitable period in prison), if proven guilty?

As for the soldiers themselves – what does the IDF intend to do with soldiers who disobeyed their orders to the point that they caused the people they rule to identify them as a terror organization? Does it intend to allow them to keep their positions, in a region where they might come into contact with the children they threatened? Does the IDF have the foggiest notion of the firestorm it will unleash, if one of those children will be harmed by its forces?

When the IDF wants to, it can find the guilty parties rather quickly. When a few women soldiers uploaded some pictures of themselves scantily clad, pictures which still cast the army at a better light than the goonish threats in Qaddum, the IDF responded speedily and effectively. If the Military Police’s Criminal Investigative Division (MPCID) still remembers how to investigate, we expect the soldiers responsible will be quickly found and brought to justice.

The details are known: the village of Qaddum, near the mosque, late morning, May 31st. If the IDF can’t find out which of its men were there, and on whose authority, maybe it should drop the F from its name and replace it with an M, for “militia.”

The MPCID has the ball. If the IDF does indeed see such wild and partisan actions as gravely as it claims, we will soon hear that MPCID arrested suspects and that it has prepared indictments. If we don’t, we’ll realize precisely how much the IDF cares about the disintegration of what’s left of its discipline. Anyone who still cares about the remains of the IDF’s good name will not allow MPCID to shirk its duty.

Advocate Emily Schaeffer, who represents Yesh Din in this case, added, “whether the pictures and writings were the work of lone, rogue soldiers, or done with the backing of their commanders, the suspicions point to a perverted and criminal abuse of authority and access to information, which is particularly disturbing when directed toward children. If this behavior is not eradicated from the IDF immediately, the ramifications will be devastating both legally and morally.”

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.

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    COMMENTS

    1. rsgengland

      I would assume that these pictures were taken of “peaceful and non violent stone throwing/slingshot wielding” demonstrators, to let them know their identities were known.
      This serves to warn these protesters that if they continue they will be arrested.
      That in turn can prevent the necessity of having to arrest them, with all the disruption that that would cause their families.
      I would have thought that Yesh Din would welcome anything that would serve to keep these kids out of trouble and jail.
      Or is Yesh Dins motivation to create as much difficulty for the Army as possible, irrespective of the potential aftermath.
      Questions???Questions???Questions???

      Reply to Comment
      • It does not matter if these children threw a single stone: asserted facts are not contestible; only population pacification matters. Under Fascism, the view of the State creates peace; all opposition is definitially evil. Here the IDF itself is unwilling to go so far, as its public disavowal indicates. But these soldiers posted the placards using military equipment, in uniform; by threatening arrest, they clothed themselves–dislegitimately–in law. If the IDF does not discipline them and/or their local command, this rouge action attaches to the military and so State. The IDF’s disavowal has removed the issue from population pacification to command and control; your defense is vacuous.

        Reply to Comment
    2. “the army enters the villages from time to time in order to shoot in the air, throw stun and gas grenades, take people out of their homes at night and generally show the population who’s top dog.”

      By framing each stone thrown as an isolate act, background causes such as the above are erased. Teenagers are made guilty, the military ever innocent. The pacification of a population thereby engenders further pacification. Your life is what we tell you it is: any deviation insures punishment.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        Benny Morris writes that one symbol of Jewish degradation was the phenomenon of stone-throwing at Jews by Muslim children. Morris quotes a 19th-century traveler: “I have seen a little fellow of six years old, with a troop of fat toddlers of only three and four, teaching [them] to throw stones at a Jew, and one little urchin would, with the greatest coolness, waddle up to the man and literally spit upon his Jewish gaberdine. To all this the Jew is obliged to submit; it would be more than his life was worth to offer to strike a Mahommedan.”

        Reply to Comment
        • Gearoid

          Was this when Morris was an honest historian or when he became another right wing hack?

          Even during his honest days he was always uncomfortable following his data to the logical conclusions it presented, instead equivocating and trying to minimize the conclusions of his own data.

          Beyond that, how is that relevant in any way to the abuse of state power those soldiers committed? As a supporter of the State, unequivocally, you should certainly act harshly against such stupid, immoral, and likely illegal abuses of state legitimacy.

          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            >Beyond that, how is that relevant in any way to the abuse of state power those soldiers committed?

            Said proves that claims such as “By framing each stone thrown as an isolate act, background causes such as the above are erased.” are not correct because Arabs were throwing stones at Jews long before Jews became able to protect themselves.

            What abuse of power? Kids should not throw stones. Period.

            Reply to Comment
    3. Julia

      This act by Israeli soldiers, and the arrests of Palestinian children, and their detainment in jails,often without legal aid or a chance to see their families, is not only frightening, but also immoral. These are children. They need to be protected, not terrorized. This is another stone in the tower of Occupation that must come down.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        Children have no right to throw stones at other people. If their families are not capable to keep them from such activities than other people will have to.

        Reply to Comment
        • SH

          You do realise it’s a stone, right? Not an explosive stone, not a nuclear tipped stone… a motherf***ing stone, thrown by a child, against an army. It’s not proper behaviour, but that’s about all it can be called. Bursting into people’s houses in the middle of the night to arrest young boys with still developing muscles for throwing stones against the mighty IDF with all its armour and tanks is probably the most pitiful thing I’ve heard. You call that the actions of an army that knows what it’s doing? Not at all, that’s the action of an immature army that has no clue how to conduct itself. A shameful reflection of Israeli society.

          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            >You do realise it’s a stone, right?

            Yeah. You realise than stones are capable of killing people, right?

            >Not an explosive stone, not a nuclear tipped stone… a motherf***ing stone, thrown by a child, against an army.

            Load of bullshit.

            1 – Stones thrown are perfectly capable of hurting, maiming and killing people.

            2 – Stones are thrown not only at IDF soldiers but also at Israeli civilians, including those driving vehicles.

            3 – By your logic, Israeli “children” also are allowed to throw stones at Arabs. Or you are saving this right to Arabs only?

            >It’s not proper behaviour, but that’s about all it can be called.

            More bullshit.

            Let’s conduct an experiment:
            I’ll have few 14-17 years old throwing stones at you for 10 minutes. If you live to tell your story, I’ll be happy to listen about “inappropriate behaviour”

            >Bursting into people’s houses in the middle of the night to arrest young boys with still developing muscles for throwing stones against the mighty IDF with all its armour and tanks is probably the most pitiful thing I’ve heard

            These young boys have no right to throw stones at other people. If their parents aren’t capable of preventing them from doing so, the IDF will have to.

            >You call that the actions of an army that knows what it’s doing?

            An army which knows what it’s doing – Syrian Army for instance – would long be shooting stone-throwers on sight.

            >Not at all, that’s the action of an immature army that has no clue how to conduct itself.

            Ok. Now you have a chance to give an advice on what IDF should do to prevent stone-throwing.

            Reply to Comment
          • Haifawi

            Israeli security forces are no stranger to stones being thrown at them by both Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel.
            The civilian legal system works just fine in this regard, while still allowing for the rights of the accused to mount a defense and requiring evidence and warrants and whatnot.
            Yet, in the territories, under the Grand Apartheid legal regime, habeas corpus is only required for the “Chosen People,” while the untermenschen receive intimidation, kidnapping, and 2am home invasions.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Who are you lying to?
            Jewish citizens of Israel are yet to employ slingshots against IDF/Police.

            As of habeas corpus – people who support honour killings in 2013 do not deserve law of 1679 to be applied to them.

            Reply to Comment
          • Haifawi

            Are you implying that you would deny habeas corpus to anyone who expresses sympathy for heinous acts? You’re a disgrace to the Jewish collective, the religion, and to the Sages of old.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            >Are you implying that you would deny habeas corpus to anyone who expresses sympathy for heinous acts?

            Of course. Habeas corpus assumes that there is a certain level of civilization and should not be applied to savages.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gearoid

            That’s a complete lie. Selective memory much?

            Remember when some radical settlers assaulted that IDF base? Remember how none of them were shot? Racism in action.

            I’m not surprised you’re unaware of Jews committing the very actions you deplore, and getting away with it.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            >That’s a complete lie. Selective memory much?

            I dare you to bring up some proof that Jews ever employed a slingshot against other Jews.

            After you miserably fail, you should take some time to ponder about an inherent dishonesty of your posts.

            >Remember when some radical settlers assaulted that IDF base? Remember how none of them were shot? Racism in action.

            Given that none of them had actually hurt any soldiers, there wasn’t a good reason to shoot them. I know that you and other haters similar to yourself would love to see Jews exterminating each other in a civil war, but something tells me that it won’t take place in your lifetime.

            Reply to Comment
    4. SH

      Yeah, you’re absolutely right… as it stands a bunch of 14 – 17 year old kids throwing stones is a massive threat, I would reckon it’s on the same level as drone attacks – let the IDF continue terrorising these young boys and interrogating them in a manner fit of the Syrian Army – they seem to be a group you admire. I mean why try to make Israeli society and its army an example of a just and moral society when you have places like Syria or Iran… no point in trying to raise the bar or anything. So, as you were I guess!

      Reply to Comment
      • rsgengland

        Stone throwing is a massive threat when you take the circumstances into consideration.
        These “kids” are challenging the basic duty of the army to maintain stability, and the army is doing its job.
        In Syria, and Turkey, and Egypt, and China, and Russia and countless other places, far more violence is used for less provocative actions by the protesters.
        The chance of those kids on the posters protesting again, are rather slim at present.

        Reply to Comment