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Punished for stealing apples — not for shooting Palestinians

Israeli society needs to believe in its righteous path to continue sending us to occupy a people in its name. That’s why it will indict a commander who stole a few apples in Hebron, but won’t do the same for a soldier who shoots a 15 year old in the head.

By Avner Gvaryahu

Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian youth during a protest against Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, Hebron, West Bank, December 7, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian youth during a protest against Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Hebron, West Bank, December 7, 2017. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Here is a multiple-choice question that will test your understanding of the reality in Israel. Before you are four recent incidents that took place in the occupied territories. In which of these cases were soldiers put on trial?

A. The arrest of a 16-year-old in Hebron by dozens of Israeli soldiers. He had been throwing stones. The photo of the arrest shows his face is clearly bruised.

B. Soldiers and police officers stand alongside settlers in the Jordan Valley, while forcibly dispersing the Palestinian shepherds’ flocks.

C. A 15-year-old from the village of Nabi Saleh is severely wounded by a rubber bullet to the head.

D. An IDF commander steals a few apples from the market in Hebron.

The first three incidents are routine procedures used by the army in order to control millions of Palestinians: often-violent arrests; looking the other way as settlers, the lords of the land, do as they wish with their subjects as part of their continual takeover of Palestinian land; firing on protesters who demonstrate against military rule, with the goal of maintaining “order” and “quiet.” The routine of occupation is comprised of the daily use of these means for the sake of control, through various forms of violence. In fact, carrying out these tasks is at the core of our military service in the occupied territories. The gears of occupation must continue to grind, thus it is rare that these routine acts of violence lead to an investigation.

The main story remains the occupation

It is enough to recognize that the vast majority of complaints by Palestinians about violence by soldiers or settlers do not end in indictments in order to understand the majority of investigations are not a response to said violence — they are an attempt to whitewash it. When Breaking the Silence Spokesperson Dean Issacharoff openly spoke about using force against a Palestinian who resisted arrest, he was breaking his silence. When he spoke about the the violence used in the interrogation room, he was breaking the whitewashing mechanism. His deeds as a soldier were an integral part of everyday life in the occupied territories, just as the first three aforementioned incidents are. The only difference is his public activism following his service in the IDF. This is what transformed the mundane into unique.

Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Tulkarem December 17, 2017, (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Tulkarem December 17, 2017, (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

In order for Israeli society to continue sending us to occupy in its name, we need different tools: the belief in the righteous purity of our path, or at least our attempts to be as pure as possible.

Plunder on any scale does not align with the fantasy of an “enlightened occupation.” In fact, it threatens it. That is the reason that D. is the correct answer to the above question. After the commander stole two apples from the Hebron fruit vendor, the IDF Spokesperson quickly published a message, according to which the officer’s conduct was “inconsistent with what is expected of an IDF soldier and commander.” The soldier was suspended from his position and will face disciplinary action, said the spokesperson. After all, in order to maintain occupation, there is no need to steal apples, only to condemn the rotten ones.

Because of this, our goal in Breaking the Silence is not to put soldiers who “misbehaved” on trial, despite our belief that theft is a nefarious act. For this reason, our work is directed at exposing the reality of occupation, and the struggle to end it. After all, what good will jailing the apple thief for 20 days do? What kind of message does this send if we ignore the everyday routine of occupation?

When these images and stories appear momentarily in the media, we must remember that the main story was and continues to be the occupation — its goal, its implementation, and its end. Far more important than dealing with “rotten apples” is our society’s need to recognize this reality.

Avner Gvaryahu is the executive director of Breaking the Silence. This post was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    1. Lewis from Afula

      The apple does not blow itself up on buses !
      DUHHHHH !!!!!

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Lewis: The article is about how Israeli soldiers are punished for trivial things but not serious human rights violations. You are comparing apples and oranges.

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        The article is about how the army makes a show of disciplining an apple thief so as to maintain the illusions of a moral army that make the Israeli public feel good about itself, and practice denial about the routine dirty work of a brutal occupation that their army carries out.
        Do you think the army occupying France and Holland in 1944 did not also discipline apple thieves and feel good about it? That army had most excellent military discipline and took great pride in that.

        The problem is that when the Israeli public feels good about itself and about its army it tends to not listen to anything about what is done in their name to Palestinians a few kilometers east of Tel Aviv. It tends to completely ignore all protest of any kind about the occupation, or to care one bit about making peace because things are “quiet.” Out of sight out of mind.
        “Did you hear that the IDF arrested a commander for stealing a few apples? It just goes to show you what a moral army we have! It makes me proud!”
        The same person never hears about the terrible things the army does every day and night to human being in the occupied territories.

        So, about those apples that don’t explode, Lewis from Afula, the really difficult truth is that the Israeli public only listens to violence:

        By Noam Sheizaf |Published March 11, 2016
        Why do we only listen to violence?

        Reply to Comment
    2. Baladi Akka 1948

      The thug was filmed stealing the apples that’s all. Just as Elor Azaria was sentenced only because he was filmed. The whole State of Israel is one big rotten apple …

      Reply to Comment