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IDF's reply confirms collective punishment of Palestinian village

On Saturday night, I posted a clip showing IDF forces shooting tear gas and throwing stun grenades at Palestinian houses in the middle of the night. The incident occurred in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, where unarmed protest against the confiscation of the village’s land takes place every Friday.

Here is the video again. After the army cars stop, you can hear the weapons being loaded. Then there are the blasts, and the silhouettes of the soldiers throwing more and more grenades at the local houses. The occasional shots you see are the gas launchers, fired in several directions. Around one minute into the clip, you can hear the tear gas spreading near the Palestinian photographer (and later again around 1:20). Note that there is nothing else happening in the street, and there is no Palestinian in sight. The soldiers aren’t under any kind of threat.

On Sunday morning, I contacted IDF Spokesperson for a comment on the video. It took them the entire week, but I finally got a reply:

“At the time of the described event, tires were set on fire near Nabi Saleh, and a roadblock made of stones was set on a nearby road, which interfered with routine security activities. It should be noted that disturbance of public order takes place in Nabi Saleh every week, as well as popular H.S.A (Hostile Sabotage Activity – an army codename to terrorism).

Regarding the burning tires and the roadblock, the army is basically confirming that the action which was caught on tape was a form punishment against the village’s people. After all, even if you accept the army’s version, nothing in the video indicates an attempt to deal with the security issue itself – i.e. the tires and those who put them there – the soldiers are simply shooting in all directions. This is the heart of the matter: even the army doesn’t try to portray the event shown in the clip as direct action against a security threat, but instead uses things that [may have] happened outside the village, on a nearby road, to justify the soldiers’ behavior.

The last part of the comment is inaccurate, to say the least: No terrorist activity has taken place in Nabi Saleh in recent years. Stones are hurled during demonstrations, and I heard reports of Molotov cocktails, though those were very rare. The protests taking place in the village are strictly unarmed – even the army doesn’t dispute that.

The fact that IDF spokesperson felt a need to add a comment about the weekly protest in Nabi Saleh only goes to show that as I suggested, this was an attempt to terrorize defenseless people, so that they would stop protesting.

From my own personal experience as a soldier and an officer in the West Bank, I can testify that these forms of collective punishment against Palestinian civilians who happen to live where protest is taking place is very common. The only unique thing about this incident is that it was caught on tape.

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    1. Nadia Andreea

      Fantastic article! It seems that the IDF Spokesperson always tries to justify the soldiers actions and never doubt the legitimacy of what they do! Hence masking the ‘attempt to terrorize defenseless people’ by all means. Thank you Noam Sheizaf for exposing this and for your honesty!

      Reply to Comment
    2. annie

      thanks for the update Noam

      Reply to Comment
    3. Anthony

      Is throwing molotov cocktails not an act of terrorism? And is that consistent with the protests being “strictly unarmed.”

      I’ve never been to the protests and have no idea about their character – just curious how you reconcile different bits in your article.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Emad

      Anthony, may be you need to join these international activists who go to West Bank. i am sure once you do so, you will stop posting such negative posts.

      People have the right to use all means to liberate their land from the occupier. It is not terrorism..it is struggle

      Reply to Comment
    5. Asi

      Thanks Anthony. Someone needed to put these words here.

      Stones and Molotov cocktails ARE terrorist activities! It’s about time you’ll figure it out, Noam! It can kill people!
      You can’t just ignore it to let reality fit well with your hatred to security forces (not that I’m saying they’re perfect).

      Tear gas terrorising? come on…

      Reply to Comment
    6. Oh get real. Throwing stones and petrol bombs aren’t terrorist activities and if they were then half of Belfast should be in prison right now under trumped up terrorism charges.

      If the IDF were in Northern Ireland we’d have a full scale war on our hands! Thats how bl**dy incompetent the IDF is.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Delphine

      This “reasoning” by the IDF just shows how out of touch they are. Does the Israeli population hear these comments Noam? Because I know the international community is finding out about them and we’re shocked. Good luck on the fight! Best of wishes for Israel and Palestine.

      Reply to Comment
    8. RichardNYC

      All the more reason for Palestinians to get pragmatic.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Svej

      @ ASI and Anthony: I think you really need to learn to differenciate between “terrorism” and “resistance”. The stones and (though I haven’t seen any when I was there or read of them in months) molotov cocktails are thrown at fully armed and armored members of an occupational army, not at Israeli civilians. The only Israeli civilians present there are those protesting with the Palestinians and internationals there. There is a HUGE difference between attacking civilians and attacking soldiers who have no business being there and trying to stop a demonstration, trying to strip them of their right to demonstrate.

      Yes, I agree that stones and molotov cocktails can potentially kill people. Apart from my point about the soldier/civilian difference, you should consider one thing: how many soldiers have been killed or even seriously injured by these? They are wearing full body armor. In your eyes these means are terrorism – but tear gas is not?! The tear gas is shot at civilians wearing no armor whatsoever. Technically they are supposed to shoot it from a minimum distance of 40m and aimed over the heads. Well when I was there they shot the high velocity metal tear gas canisters right AT the protesters’ heads and bodies, from a distance no bigger than 10-20 meters. These projectiles not only “can” kill, they do kill, and have so before. They also do injure, and heavily injure those who are hit by them. Using crowd dispersal ammunition in a illegal, potentially lethal manner against unarmed and unarmored civilians is not terrorism?

      At these protests, the stone throwing usually does not start before the tear gas but as a reaction to it. That kind of messes up the defense-logic, doesn’t it?

      I would really like to advise you to go and see for yourself. You can stay in the back, just watch from the distance, you don’t have to shout slogans or wave a flag. Just go and watch. You will be appalled by what you see.

      This is a video from a protest in Nabi Saleh I have been at. What you see in there cannot be justified by anything. Just watch. http://friendfeed.com/alkoga/a85307d9/youtube-nabi-saleh-13-5-2011-wmv

      Reply to Comment
    10. As an American soldier, I was told that a person throwing a rock at me was not an intent to kill me, and therefore I was not allowed to shoot back (or apply any form of deadly force). Throwing rocks is a form of protest, but a violent protest (and the rock throwers should be punished), but it is not an act of terrorism. Molotov cocktails, on the other hand, are. As the author pointed out, though, these are very seldom thrown, and any act against the village as a whole is a violation of more than one international law.

      Reply to Comment