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On small humiliations: Israeli soldier shoves Palestinian woman

During a protest in the South Hebron Hills yesterday, Operation Dove reported that a Palestinian child was arrested, allegedly for damaging an armored military truck with a flag. Operation Dove also reported that an elderly woman was shoved by a young Israeli soldier.

Here is an illustrative photo from yesterday’s demonstration:

Israeli soldier pushes unarmed elderly Palestinian woman (photo: Operation Dove)

The imprisonment of the boy is worth a post of its own. For now, I want to address the image above.

It may seem like something small. But the small humiliations, piled on top of one another, day after day, year after year, add up. And they remind us, again, that many Israelis are being taught to have little to no respect for the dignity or humanity of Palestinians. How else can you explain a young soldier shoving an elder, a woman who is, as this picture shows, unarmed?

As though the checkpoints and movement restrictions and demolitions and evictions and blockade weren’t enough, the small humiliations remind us, yet again, that there is no such thing as an enlightened occupation.

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    1. This reminds me of something that happened in Hebron a few months ago. As is usual on Fridays, a group of settlers and their guests were taking a tour of the Old City, escorted by IDF guard. The IDF are responsible for clearing the Palestinians out of the way so that the settlers can pass. I was looking on with a team of international observers from EAPPI. The soldiers weren’t requesting that people move – they just gestured silently with their weapons. I don’t think they saw it as rude; this is just their routine. Then I saw one soldier take his gun and prod a very small girl with it. She couldn’t have been more than four years old, and she evidently wasn’t moving fast enough for him. He kept nudging her with the gun until she had reached the doorstep of a shop and sat down on it. Then he turned, saw me looking at him, smiled, and raised his middle finger. His whole attitude seemed to be, “So what are you going to do about it?” I’ve seen worse than that happening, but it was the casual insolence that struck me – the fact that he didn’t care whether he was seen to push a kid with an assault rifle. He had a point. Who was going to stop him?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Philos

      Well, Mya, to answer your question she’s not a soldier. She’s a policewoman from the Mishmar Ha’Gvul (Border Police) aka the Magav, and they’re trained to be animals. Many IDF soldiers find their behaviour totally appalling as I myself did when I served alongside them for a brief stint in the Intifada. They’d chastise us “chalim” for being “too soft” on Palestinians; being physically and verbally aggressive with Palestinians is a badge of honour among them. I’d appreciate it if you’d make the distinction between them and soldiers. These guys from the Magav are just an armed paramilitary of thugs. At least soldiers can be called upon to fight in a war if the need were to arise unlike those yahoos (who are overwhelmingly drafted from the lower socio-economic parts of Israeli society and the Druze)

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    3. philos, thanks for the correction. i see from the pictures on the AIC website, though, that there were soldiers there, as well. it was not just magav.

      and while i know of magav’s reputation, i think it’s impossible to blame all of the human rights abuses that the occupation is responsible for on magav. are you seriously trying to argue that every soldier in the israeli army is moral and upright and that when atrocities and humiliations happen, it’s always magav? read any breaking the silence testimonies? heard of operation cast lead?

      you are aware, by the way, that your last statement is both classist and racist, right?

      nonetheless, thanks for the correction.

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    4. Edithann

      Looks like the IDF or (border police) or whatever they’re called, seem to be lacking rudimentary etiquette at it’s most basic level.
      So what will Israel do with this bunch of schooled hate-filled barbarian savages once their tour of intimidation is over? Will they be absorbed into Israeli society and pass it all on?

      It was the IDF intimidating the 5 yr old that was interesting to me. Such an outward sign of immaturity …
      It’s still hard for me to accept that women, brutalizing women is natural and acceptable. It must be a Jew thing I will never understand.

      @Philos:” I’d appreciate it if you’d make the distinction between them and soldiers”

      Sorry I can’t! I can’t make distinctions between them and settlers, or them and Israeli’s who support them by being quiet, and/or Diaspora Jews who fund them.


      Reply to Comment

      Is the police woman shoving the elderly woman, or vice versa? You really can’t tell from the picture. Maybe the elderly woman refused to obey an order and therefore use of force was justified? Are you sure the woman was unarmed? How do you know she didn’t have a weapon hidden sowewhere in her garb? None of these things are possible to tell from the picture alone. Certainly, you cannot expect any objectivity from Mya (or from 972 magazine), when she makes a reference to Breaking the Silence or any other European Union propaganda outlet.
      EDITHANN says:
      “It’s still hard for me to accept that women, brutalizing women is natural and acceptable. It must be a Jew thing I will never understand.” Does 972 mag tolerate openly anti-semitic comments? If you do, it’ll be much harder for you to keep up your “we’re not anti-semitic, we simply have a different view” charade.

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    6. @edithann – Your last comment does not follow +972 guidelines. We recommend reading them on our About page if you wish to continue to comment on the site.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Philos

      Mya, I didn’t claim that IDF soldiers don’t engage in acts of brutality as well. My point was that you’re unlikely to find a Magav officer who will restrain (or ever heard of the word) his/her troops from beating the crap out of anyone he or his troops don’t like the look of. If you read the Breaking the Silence reports, especially the one by female Israeli soldiers, the overwhelming amount of physical abuse comes out of the Magav.
      I don’t see how my last statement is “classist” and “racist.” The Black and Tans employed by the British in Ireland to essentially commit atrocities against the civilian population were deliberately recruited from the lowest classes and ex-convicts because the ruling class were well aware of the daily brutality that was their lives, and that they’d have less qualms about massacring people than say a farm boy. I am stating a fact about the Magav; they are overwhelming Mizrachi, Russian, Ethopian and Druze. Population groups who are discriminated against, socio-economically disadvantaged and brutalized by society long before they got into the Magav. Except for the Magav anti-terror commando unit most of these kids would not be able to get into regular combat infantry brigades in the IDF for various physical and mental reasons. My pointing out this fact I don’t think makes me either an elitist or a racist. Perhaps I shouldn’t have called them yahoos but I’ve seen what they’re capable of with my own eyes and it was deeply traumatic. I have strong resentment against anyone in that uniform and maybe I shouldn’t judge all individuals with the same brush

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    8. Sinjim

      The racist abuse that Palestinians, man and woman, young and old, face at the hands of these thugs is unconscionable. The systematic imprisoning of children is a sign of a sickness afflicting Israel at its roots.
      Having said that, there is no excuse for words such as Edithann has to offer. She has demonstrated an unrivaled capacity to casually drop anti-Semitic nuggets like the one she did here.
      Take it from this Palestinian, Edithann, we don’t want or need the likes of you. There’s already enough hatred in this conflict without you adding your own.

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    9. aristeides

      Ban Edithann and bring back Shoded Yam

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    10. “Perhaps I shouldn’t have called them yahoos but I’ve seen what they’re capable of with my own eyes and it was deeply traumatic. I have strong resentment against anyone in that uniform and maybe I shouldn’t judge all individuals with the same brush.”

      Philos, a question. If you were serving in the Territories alongside the Magav, then you too were responsible for upholding the occupation, just as they were. What makes you different from them?

      I don’t say this in a hostile way. I’m asking it because the occupation is intrinsically oppressive and humiliating, no matter how nice you are as a person. Sometimes you encounter checkpoint soldiers who really try to be polite and friendly as you’re standing there, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are impeding your movement. Sometimes the soldiers who come to do house searches are uncomfortable and they apologise, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are waking people up in the middle of the night and rifling through their possessions. In their own way, they are contributing to the same system that enables the disrespect and humiliation that Magavnikim are renowned for. One wouldn’t be possible without the other.

      That said, I don’t have any resentment or particular anger towards soldiers as individuals, even the ones I have personally witnessed being abusive. Maybe the guy I described sounded like a ‘hate-filled barbarian’ to Edithann, but to me he looked like a kid with a gun, because that is what he was. I’m sorry that your army service required you to witness traumatic things, but I think it’s important to remember that IDF/Magav who commit abuses are perhaps not in the greatest state of mind themselves. You’ve hit on why in your own comment – they’re basically groomed for this. It doesn’t excuse what they do, but it goes some way towards explaining why they do it.

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    11. Philos

      Well, obviously I’m aware that I participated, was a cog, in the machinery of military occupation,however, I think individual morality does count for something. The difference between me and them is that I did not bully or harm anyone. I didn’t dehumanize these people. I felt uncomfortable and confused by the looks of fear in the eyes of children as they passed me by; I don’t want to be feared.
      And so I don’t think you can blame soldiers as individuals (except ones that behave terribly) because we are talking about a system that is geared to turning every Israeli male child into one. Just like we wouldn’t expect someone who lands himself in a crummy job in sales to take all the blame for the exploitation involved in capitalism (although we can hold exploitative individuals morally responsible).
      I am aware of cognitive dissonance in my thinking, however, I think that when we take a very nuanced view of reality that rejects absolutes then we have to keep examining our thinking until the dissonance is harmonized. We should always avoid categorical absolutes; not all Israeli soldiers are killers of children but some have, not all Palestinian militants are killers of children but some have and so on. This kind of thinking isn’t easy because it avoids the easy stereotyping and categorizing that allows so many people to live in an ideologically simple life.

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    12. For me the biggest problem here is that occupation itself is a killer. Restrictions on Palestinian movement are killing people even now (Medical Aid to Palestinians are currently profiling the difficulty that cancer patients have in accessing treatment, with devastating consequences). The terrible water shortages in the West Bank and Gaza contribute to death – people south of Hebron consume well below the minimum daily amount recommended by the World Health Organisation, and this is especially detrimental to those who are sick. Not all the killing is achieved by bullets. Every person in the army, no matter what his function, is part of this. I don’t blame them for it as individuals – I agree with the sentiments you’ve expressed re. culpability. But because the occupation itself is dehumanising, in some cases literally life-destroying, I don’t see how its possible to take part in it in any capacity and not contribute to dehumanisation in some form.
      This is not to say that individual morality doesn’t have an effect. It does. I’ve been in the checkpoint with scared children (I can tell the degree of the fear by how hard they are gripping my hand) and it does make a difference to them when the soldier is kind. It puts them in a happier mood for the day, and that’s always worthwhile. But it doesn’t reduce the overall fear. One of the hardest things for them is that they never know how the soldiers are going to behave – one soldier might offer them some sweets and talk to them about the TV, the next soldier might scream at them and force them to strip publicly in front of the line. (I’ve seen both things happening in the space of the same week.) This sort of unpredictability is never fun, but it’s especially difficult to deal with if you’re a small child. Even if the soldier is being nice, the fear will remain, because the kids don’t understand the soldiers: why do some shout? Why do some play football with us? Why did they take Salim away in the night? They ask me these questions and I never know how to answer.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Philos

      Vicky, I suppose we can both agree that the occupation corrupts everything it touches. To paraphrase Tony Soprano, the occupation is like King Midas except everything it touches turns to s**t

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    14. Apa

      @Philos – personal morality is indeed important. However, you talking about your actions and blaming the system is a version of the ‘I was only following orders’ line of defence. It does, unfortunately, not fly.

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    15. Small humiliations can shape a life. Repression works best that way, judicially saving the larger humiliations for strategic cases. If I was an Israeli enforcer, young of age, in the IDF or other, I do not know what I would do, what I would slip by. I might, at the end of my service, be unable to see certain things, unwilling to see certain things. Israel is trapped in its own fear; it will be difficult, and dangerous, to break free of that. But that possible release underlies the hysteria of the right.

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    16. Philos

      APA, Israeli soldiers are technically required to disobey illegal orders such as “kill him” or “beat that child.” If you attend a Breaking the Silence tour they will consistently point out to you that the biggest problem is the system and not the soldiers per se. It is the entire system of repression, the machinery of occupation, that corrupts everything.
      There are a very small number of brave souls who refuse military service on conceitious grounds but their small number should indicate to you that tremendous psychological pressure that exists in Israel to be conscripted into the army. The army claims it doesn’t conscript into combat units anymore, claiming it has more than enough willing volunteers, but this is hocus pocus. I know plenty of young people who wanted a job with computers and ended up in a tank or standing at a roadblock.
      The army abuses its conscripts as much as it abuses the Palestinians. I think a lot of the social (and personal) problems encountered in Israel stem from the “education” received in the army. Stealing is rampant, screwing over people is rampant and so is bullying. You probably served in the Kirya or somewhere else cushy if one leaves the army un-traumatized.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Sinjim

      @Philos: While I can appreciate what you’re saying, I take issue with some of your points.
      You say that BTS argues “the biggest problem is the system and not the soldiers per se.” I can’t see how anyone could possibly disagree with that. However, they’re only talking about the biggest problem, not the only problem. Being an occupation soldier is in itself an abuse of power. Even if they are kind or polite, those who participate in it necessarily share in the guilt.
      The other thing is this sentence: “The army abuses its conscripts as much as it abuses the Palestinians.” Comparing what conscripts go through to what Palestinians go through minimizes the suffering that the occupation causes to its victims. I believe you when you say that the army stints brutalize the soldiers, but that doesn’t make comparisons to Palestinian suffering OK. No one is violating the soldiers’ rights the way they violate Palestinians’.

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    18. directrob

      Actually thanks to Philos Vicky got the opportunity for her outstanding replies. I hope 972mag can give their exchange a more prominent place on this blog. Something similar as Joseph did with the liberal Zionism discussion.

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    19. Edithann

      So sorry I offended your delicate sensibilities. I’m well aware this is a fledgling site for those who want to practice their literary skills while ignoring serious cultural, and political problems so obvious to ‘others’.

      Anyway, I thought you might be interested in the following. Can anyone say this isn’t barbaric? You all seem to understand and accept it without a moments reflection when 99% says it all..


      Please take the time to read it and watch the video. Then tell me Zionism isn’t barbarism incarnate?

      I’m having a really hard time watching my tax dollars at work now for over 60+ years with such barbarism on the rise? What’s with you people?


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    20. Henry Weinstein

      Heil EdithAnn,
      It’s been a long time, do you recognize mich?
      I’m Henry Ze Frenchie Jewish Circumcised Fried Frog!
      Ze Volk singer!!
      Can I tell you something, Princess?
      Are du ready?
      I had a really hard time all these muddy years, since Uncle Wolf found his homeland in Hell, to witness from my Ukrainian grave your tax dollars at work in Central America, South America, Vietnam, Middle East, Eastern East, Big Oil, Big Guns, Global Subculture, Serial Ecological Killer, Greed Is God, and so on.
      Aber I love the Americans, I care for them. Hunter S. Thompson, David Foster Wallace, Jimmy Carter, Elvis Presley, The Cramps, John Wayne, Gram Parson, Dolly Parton, Philip Roth, Andy Warhol, Dean Martin, The Beach Boys, Jim Morrison, David Lynch, and so on and so on.
      What an amazing people, the American people! I don’t hate them.
      They are not responsible of this global mess.
      In Greed we trust.
      Made In China it sounds better now.

      Reply to Comment
    21. Bosko

      Don’t waste your time on EdithAnn. She hates America too. She said she wants all Americans to face the International Court of Justice. I doubt that she is American. But whatever she is, whoever she is, one thing is for sure, she is a racist nut-job.

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    22. I second Directrob on Vicky’s comments. Her blog, a click shows, is rather different than the usual warfare. Talent here.

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    23. Philos

      Sinjim, I think personal responsibility is very important. If we are ever to move forward towards peace then reconciliation will be a critical component of any lasting mutuality between our people’s. To me reconciliation does not mean letting murderers get away with murder; those individuals from both sides must face up to their crimes and face some kind of justice. However, individuals who participated in the occupation but did not abuse should be culpable the same way that Ehud Barak is culpable or the Magavniks who fired plastic bullets into a school yard murdering a small child are culpable.
      In making a comparison between the brutalization of Israeli youth and the brutality faced by Palestinians my point was to draw a casual connection. I’m not saying that they are the same or that the degrees of brutality are similar.

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    24. Philos

      Whoops, sorry, I made a typo. That should be “but did not abuse should NOT be culpable the…”

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    25. Piotr Berman

      “The IDF are responsible for clearing the Palestinians out of the way so that the settlers can pass.”

      This situation seems to be quite hierarchical. The lords stroll. Their armed servants prevent the contact of the lords with the impure. The impure are moved away. What would be a humane implement to shove children away? A bamboo stick? A fly swatter (sized properly for that function)?

      Apparently, it is a distinction of Border Police that would use bare hands. In some sense, police seems more human to me. I have seen a video of a demonstration in a village. Soldiers walk slowly, cautiously, in full combat gear, looking a bit like Dalek or pehaps The Borg. When the perceive a challenge or for some unfathomable reasons, they lob tear gas cans from behind huge shields.

      In another scene, a child shouted something and perhaps threw a pebble, and run away. A policeman in normal summer uniform gave him a chase and grabbed him. At least, he did not appear like an extra-terrestrial alien enforcing “surrender, Earthlings, resistance is futile”.

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    26. Re Poltergeist: “Is the police woman shoving the elderly woman, or vice versa? You really can’t tell from the picture.”

      No, the police woman is moon walking backward, like Michael Jackson, while the elderly woman is whistling Dixie.

      It would have to be a very strong (slender) elderly woman, with a very strong back and upper body, to be standing upright and moving backward the young woman with the big thighs, who is leaning forward.

      Reply to Comment
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