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Organized chaos and bare life (*): The non-story of the night raids

There exists a general, intentional, cleverly constructed misunderstanding surrounding the true nature of the Israeli occupation. Some say it’s a simple dispute over land, like many others in the world; other think the conflict is about national independence for the Palestinians, prompting statements like, “The Basques and the Kurds aren’t independent either, so why do people pick on Israel?”

But the occupation is something else. It is the ongoing military control over the lives of millions, and everything that comes with it: The lack of civil rights, the absence of legal protection, and perhaps more than anything else, a sense of organized chaos, in which the lives of an entire civilian population is run at the mercy of soldiers 18 to 20 years old. Most of the time, it’s almost hard to explain how bad it is for those who haven’t seen it with their own eyes.

Night raid in Nabi Saleh 24 November 2011.

Night raid in Nabi Saleh, 24 November 2011.

Joseph Dana posted this picture today, of a military raid on the home of an imprisoned Palestinian activist in Nabi Saleh. This is a non-story in the West Bank: The army enters Palestinian homes as it pleases, day or night. No warrant is needed, just like you don’t need a warrant to arrest a Palestinian (even a minor). Once the soldiers are in the house, the nature of the interaction between them and the family living there depends on their good or ill will – and in the 44 years of the occupation, we have had everything: from “polite” visits, to beatings and cursing, all the way up to the murder of civilians in their beds. A Palestinian is never safe – not even in his own home. He can never know what’s coming, the way most of us can even during unpleasant encounters with the authorities. The important point is that both the Palestinian and the soldier know that.

To illustrate this issue, here is a video from a couple of weeks ago. It was taken in Nabi Saleh, the same village where the picture above was taken. The soldiers enter a man’s house at night, and demand he wakes up his children, so they can take their pictures in order to keep them for identification in case of stone-throwing. I think that it is the calmness of the entire scene, the fact that the soldiers are polite and that nothing “horrifying” happens, which makes this video truly shocking.

You can say that everything is okay, as many Israelis would. But you can also ask yourself – why do the soldiers come at night? Or why do they come at all? After all, you don’t normally take people’s photos in the event they might be involved in illegal activities. And from there, you can also start questioning the whole logic of a permanent situation in which the army runs civilians’ lives.

I wonder what is the real effect of this scene, on all parties involved: The kids who are being awakened in the middle of the night; the humiliated father; the soldiers, who know that they can do whatever they want to this man and his family. And what is the effect of this scene taking place again and again and again, for 44 years?

Most important is to truly ask ourselves whether we can imagine the same thing happening to us, the same army visit taking place in our home. Would we respond so calmly? Probably not, because we have a different understanding of our existence than the Palestinians and soldiers in this clip. In many ways, we live in a different world.


* Bare life: A term associated with the work of Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, describing a state of existence outside the political and legal order, in which a person is stripped of all forms of protection.

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    1. A good post. Once, someone from Breaking the Silence said something like “our stories of soldiers hitting people are much more effective than our stories of soldiers doing worse”. I think stories like these are more easily digested by people who don’t have a clear picture or feelings about the occupation.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Umar Farooq

      What if a pest enters our house, should we or u greet him or offer food nd place 4 him? No.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Mirna Miranda

      Thank you, Noam!
      On this American Thanksgiving Holiday, I send this article to President Obama and his wife that they may reflect on the realities of the occupation and the suffering of our Palestinian brothers and sisters at the hands of Zionist Israel. A “non-story” brought to the light of truth by compassion…because “Silence is Complicity!”

      Reply to Comment
    4. sh

      In a play or on TV you’d think of John Cleese and his Python colleagues and smile a little ruefully. Cumbersome defensive clothing hampering the movements of soldiers faced with half-asleep kids in pajamas; the wooden duet between number+transliterated-name-routine and hushed-toned-father; farce penned in Kafkaland.
      Yes, a really good post. I agree with Eyal’s assessment about the enhanced digestibility of this kind of report. Food for thought for Yehuda Shaul.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Shoded Yam

      See the kid on the floor in his pajamas? Take a good look at him. You’ll be seeing him again. Except next time, he’ll be a teenager with a rock in his hand, or a kalachnikov, or wearing a suicide belt. One generation of the Army providing missions for the next. The IDF is nothing if not efficient.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Danny

      At least he said “please”. This is clearly a coordinated terror campaign against the people of Nabi Saleh to force them to give up their peaceful activities to regain their land. Since the IDF cannot bomb the village (like undoubtedly it would have loved to do), it harasses the population, thinking that sooner or later they will submit to the occupation of their land. When will the world finally demand of Israel to stop this sh*t???

      Reply to Comment
    7. Henry Weinstein

      I often wonder, Noam, we are always told Israelis don’t know what’s going on in the West Bank & are not aware of the Occupation, like if soldiers serving in the IDF were foreign mercenaries. How is it possible to conceal the reality of the Occupation considering all the young Israelis doing here their military service since 44 years? How is it possible to live in a different world when generation after generation, from father to son, you occupy another world, another culture?

      Reply to Comment
    8. Michael Hatherstone

      Yet when the Brits dragged Jews out of their beds after a roadside bombing or a shooting, and made them assemble in the town square in the middle of the night (this was 1946-47), the Jewish press was never silent about the cruelty of the action. Check the Palestine Post archives etc. Funny how things disappear into the memory hole.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Jan

      Shoded Yam you well may be right about this kid.
      If you have ever seen the movie “Arma’s Children,” an excellent film about a Jewish woman who married a Palesitninian and opened a theatre for children in the OT, you would see how one of the kids in the theatre whose home had been bulldozed by the Israel Terror Forces, later strapped on a suicide belt.

      Most of the suicide bombers were people who were taking their revenge on Israel for what had been done to them. They had no F16s or missiles so they turned their bodies into weapons.

      The only difference in the method of killing is that Israeli soldiers don’t risk their lives when they do the killing.

      Both means are despicable.

      Reply to Comment
    10. berl

      Good article. Occupation is in big part a “matter of land”, but there is of course much more “beneath” it. Your article shows it quite well

      Reply to Comment
    11. Mik

      @Henry I think there are two answers for this-
      1. THat almost no Israeli does military in the Occupied Territories. 50% of Israelis actually do full military service and around 10% of people in the military are in combat, not all of them do their combat service in the territories, and so on.
      2. WHen you are in the military, you are in the territories but see things as a soldier and not as a civilian. Those are two very different points of view.

      Reply to Comment
    12. directrob

      Notwithstanding the efforts of the soldiers the current chances of these boys turning seriously violent is actually quite small. I think they for example have a much better chance becoming a medical doctor.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Henry Weinstein

      MIK, I’m not sure to understand what you explain with your first answer. That not all Israeli young men do their combat service in the Occupied Territoires is evident. But many are there, and in the past have been there, since 44 years. There must be a trick somewhere, I mean a well-designed IDF’s rotation of troops, or a military occupation’s well-designed instruction. Because when there is no ‘classic’ war, military fights, it seems to me you have the time to see things on the ground, and to ask yourself what you are doing here.
      Anyway, my question concerned the Israeli society as a whole: how Israeli families managed to conceal generation after generation the abnormality of this military occupation, since 1967?

      Reply to Comment
    14. Henry Weinstein

      DIRECTROB wrote: “I think they for example have a much better chance becoming a medical doctor”.
      You mean psychiatrist, I suppose, DIRECTROB?

      Reply to Comment
    15. directrob

      Henry, that are medical doctors too 🙂

      Reply to Comment
    16. moe

      Rob, thats if any of these kids even survive past 20….

      Reply to Comment
    17. Moe

      Henry, many dont conceal it. a quick youtube search will bring up ex soldier testimony of guilt and other interesting facts of coercion, hatred they were told to feel among other things.

      they come home ashamed of their collective actions and therefore keep quiet not because theyd be reprimanded (which they wouldnt be) but because of their personal guilt.

      🙂 at least thats how ive noticed things.

      Reply to Comment

      Tanks are mowing down protesters in Syria, the Egyptian army is slaughtering the Copts in Egypt, women are getting raped in Tahrir square and the only thing you guys can come up with is THIS??? You are such a lousy investment for the European Union!
      The funniest line in the article is: “the fact that the soldiers are polite and that nothing “horrifying” happens, which makes this video truly shocking” I’m not sure what is more shocking, the absense of anything “horrifying” or how much effort some people put into making the Jews look bad! Still, the EU ain’t getting their money’s worth… With all the austerity measures in Europe, I would suggest that the folks in B’Tselem and other NGOs start looking for other jobs…

      Reply to Comment
    19. Oren Shani

      Nice Photoshop work. This picture is fake. Fore one, the soldiers would never stand like this, pose to the camera, and the kid would not smile at the camera, signing a V like that, while the barrels of two guns pointed at him.

      But the definite proof is this: You can see that the camera’s flash or some other light source is illuminating the wall behind the soldiers, so how come you don’t see their shadows?

      Reply to Comment
    20. Berl

      you missed the point. What is happening in Syria&co. is really shameful, but is not a daily routine since 40 years.
      Moreover, if something bad is happening somewhere doesn’t mean that we should ignore this.

      Reply to Comment
    21. ToivoS

      Oren shani — if one illuminates a subject with a flash attached to your camera, the shadows will not show in the image. Think for a second — the subject will hide the shadows from the camera’s sensor. This picture was clearly shot with a relatively weak flash.

      Reply to Comment

      I am afraid you’re the one who missed the point. What is happening in the Arab world is utterly depraved and NOTHING of that nature has ever been done by the Jews. The reason the army has to conduct searches and raids like this is because they have to defend their population against the kind of violence that exists in the Arab world.
      The point, however, is that foreign-sponsored “human rights” organizations have to go out of their way to find anything embarrassing about the Jews to please their European masters. Of course, they will systematically fail to put things in the proper context.

      Reply to Comment
    23. dickerson3870

      RE: “A Palestinian is never safe – not even in his own home. He can never know what’s coming…” ~ Noam Sheizaf

      FROM WIKIPEDIA: Learned helplessness
      Learned helplessness, as a technical term in animal psychology and related human psychology, means a condition of a human person or an animal in which it has learned to behave helplessly, even when the opportunity is restored for it to help itself by avoiding an unpleasant or harmful circumstance to which it has been subjected. Learned helplessness theory is the view that clinical depression and related mental illnesses may result from a perceived absence of control over the outcome of a situation.[1]…
      …In the learned helplessness experiment an animal is repeatedly hurt by an adverse stimulus which it cannot escape.
      Eventually the animal will stop trying to avoid the pain and behave as if it is utterly helpless to change the situation.
      Finally, when opportunities to escape are presented, this learned helplessness prevents any action. The only coping mechanism the animal uses is to be stoical and put up with the discomfort, not expending energy getting worked up about the adverse stimulus…

      Reply to Comment
    24. dickerson3870

      RE: “A Palestinian is never safe – not even in his own home. He can never know what’s coming…” ~ Noam Sheizaf

      ARTICLE: “Permanent Temporariness”, by Alastair Crooke, ‘London Review of Books’, 03/03/11
      (excerpts)…It was [Ariel] Sharon who pioneered the philosophy of ‘maintained uncertainty’ that repeatedly extended and then limited the space in which Palestinians could operate by means of an unpredictable combination of changing and selectively enforced regulations, and the dissection of space by settlements, roads Palestinians were not allowed to use and continually shifting borders. All of this was intended to induce in the Palestinians a sense of permanent temporariness…
      …It suits Israel to have a ‘state’ without borders so that it can keep negotiating about borders, and count on the resulting uncertainty to maintain acquiescence…

      Reply to Comment
    25. Marlene Newesri

      To the person who wrote “See the kid on the floor in his pajamas? Take a good look at him. You’ll be seeing him again. Except next time, he’ll be a teenager with a rock in his hand, or a kalachnikov, or wearing a suicide belt.”

      There are no Palestinian “kids” because Israel has robbed them all of their precious childhoods using their “efficieny.” As long as the world chooses to remain indifferent as the Palestinian people are collectively brutalized and stripped of all their rights, they are certainly not the ones to be demonized. They are the Davids against the mighty Goliath, and you dare to complain?

      Reply to Comment
    26. david goldman, esq.

      Israel has had to employ levels of violence that are commonplace in the Arab Word (see syria, egypt, black september, hama massacres, sunni-shiite violence, Darfur)…. rape, murder, pillage
      is par for the course.
      Now go on any call me a racist (tried and true method of shutting debate)

      So in order for Israel to secure some semblance of normalcy they are forced to use the same iron first policies that Arabs take for granted. If anything, Israel is WAY too restrained in its use of force.

      Reply to Comment
    27. Shoded Yam

      “..you dare to complain?”
      Yo, Clueless
      Here’s a newsflash. I wasn’t critisizing the boy on the floor. If you get a moment, check this out;
      i⋅ro⋅ny1  /ˈaɪrəni, ˈaɪər-/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [ahy-ruh-nee, ahy-er-]
      1. the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning: the irony of her reply, “How nice!” when I said I had to work all weekend. 2. Literature. a. a technique of indicating, as through character or plot development, an intention or attitude opposite to that which is actually or ostensibly stated. b. (esp. in contemporary writing) a manner of organizing a work so as to give full expression to contradictory or complementary impulses, attitudes, etc., esp. as a means of indicating detachment from a subject, theme, or emotion.
      or perhaps;
      sar⋅casm  /ˈsɑrkæzəm/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [sahr-kaz-uhm]
      –noun 1. harsh or bitter derision or irony. 2. a sharply ironical taunt; sneering or cutting remark: a review full of sarcasms.

      Read more: http://blogs.forward.com/bintel-blog/121615/#ixzz1exxh4DlI

      Reply to Comment
    28. Edithann

      A disgusting display of power.
      What would have happened if the parent refused to wake up the children? What would have happened if the parent asked why their pictures were being taken? What would have happened if the parent told them to come back in the morning?

      Why at night and at 1:30 AM..What’s the message?

      Using the Arabs as an excuse to act like barbarians, certainly makes Arabs look better and better.

      I get the message and it’s, there are no redeeming qualities to any of the IDF, and/or Israel.

      @Poltergeist & David Goldman Esq..You’ve got to be kidding. Don’t use lame excuses and blame Israeli behavior on Arabs.
      ‘Two wrongs don’t make a right’ no matter how you look at it.
      But then you all seem to know Arabs better then Arabs do. You’re all so expert on just about everything …
      I guess Jews can’t rise above being Arabs.


      Reply to Comment
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