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Soldiers raiding Palestinian homes: 'We want peace'

A new video from Nabi Saleh shows a night-time raid on the home of activist Bilal Tamimi, during which soldiers claim they just want peace – as they take all the children out from their beds.

Nightly raids on the homes of Palestinian activists in the popular struggle are nothing new. The people of each and every village where demonstrations take place on a regular basis know that at one point or another – their houses are likely to get raided in the dead of night, at times turned upside down, at times leading to arrests, but often just for the sake of intrusion and intimidation. In certain villages, like Bil’in, soldiers would just roam the streets at night, throwing around stun and tear gas grenades into front yards. As Noam Sheizaf recently wrote – it’s just another part of the routine of occupation.

The video documentation of these raids, taken on by the villagers themselves, gives a unique look into the way soldiers think and work while parading through civilians homes in large groups, armed from head to toe. In the latest video, shot by Bilal Tamimi in his own home during a raid that took place between Sunday and Monday night, the soldiers are seen entering the house and asking that all residents be concentrated in one room. When asked why they are doing this, the officer leading the operation gives the amazing answer: “Of course. Because we want peace, and you are always throwing stones on our roads,” and later adds that they just came “for a  visit.”

As the recording proceeds the soldiers enter the house, ask to wake all the children up and put them all in one room. Confronted with the fact that some of the children are but 5 years old, the officer insists they are all to stay in one place. While performing a short search of the house the soldiers are glad to find empty tear standard tear gas canisters, shot by the army at demonstrators and often kept by activists as memorabilia. In the past, Bil’in’s Abdallah Abu-Rahme was actually charged with illegal possession of weapons for holding such a stash – worthless as an actual weapon, of course.

By the end of the video the officer is also seen questioning two of the children if they have “anything that is prohibited,” going through a school bag, and leaving with a “good night” greeting to the family. When entering another house, where a woman tells them that she is alone and that this is the twentieth time they’ve come to her house, some of the soldiers stop Tamimi from filming.

The most amazing thing about this short peep into the raids’ routine is the soldiers’ apparent complete lack of self-awareness. Standing there inside a family’s house, in the dead of night, pointing guns at civilians young and old, they try to act natural and even nice, and of course – all in the name of their genuine intent for peace.

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    COMMENTS

    1. seven

      Haggai,

      I read from your bio that you never served in the army so obviously you don’t understand what is going on.

      Your attacks on the soldiers are misguided and inappropriate. Remember, they were ordered to conduct a search on this house and they are carrying out those orders. If you want to attack someone, please attack the politicians who sent them there.

      Further, they conduct themselves in a professional and kind manner. NOT ONCE does any soldier in the video point his weapon at anyone. They do not lay a hand on anyone. They do not turn anything upside down.

      I served as a combat soldier in the territories, I saw a lot of both good and very bad behavior. These soldiers are the good ones, they did nothing wrong. Smart solders, as opposed to thugs (**cough** Border Police **cough**), know that acting in a professional manner and with a few kind words will defuse a situation much faster and allow everyone to get home in one piece rather than banging heads together at the drop of a hat.

      Your attacks here are sensationalistic and overwrought. Not all soldiers are monsters who bully small children. Not even close.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Mairav Zonszein

      @Seven, I think you miss the point: Can a soldier who is part of a mechanism that controls and oppresses a population and serves a regime with a clear policy of colonization really be “professional and kind?”
      Without speaking for Haggai I can say for myself that I know there are “good” Israelis who serve in the army – among them my family members – but I feel that the issue with the IDF and the Israeli occupation infrastructure is that NO “good” Israeli can actually remain so while serving in this system. Ask yourself – Isn’t making IDF operations such as a house raid “polite” and “professional” just a way for you to rationalize something immoral and unsustainable? Shouldn’t more Israelis challenge themselves to at least consider the option of refusing such operations?

      Reply to Comment
    3. seven

      @Mairav,
      I don’t disagree with you, the argument can certainly be made that a military occupation is immoral and unsustainable. To play devil’s advocate for a second, I think that most Israelis (their government certainly) are of the opinion that as ugly as the occupation is, it has succeeded in staunching the bleeding of the terror-filled years of the Second Intifada.

      My argument is not about that however.

      My main criticism here is that Haggai purports to show something on video that simply isn’t there. If you want to document and “expose” poor treatment of Palestinian civilians by IDF soldiers then go right ahead, roll the tape.
      I do no think that it is warranted to single out these soldiers, on this video, specifically for vilification when (again) they have done nothing wrong.

      Not everyone can, or should, go to jail instead of drafting into the IDF. This country does face very real external threats (note here that I do not consider the Palestinians as such) and no citizen should be cheered for acting against his country. In today’s IDF, when one deployment in the West Bank ends, another along the Lebanese border face to face with a real enemy begins.

      That said, it could certainly be worthwhile to offer some soldiers a few words of encouragement about the right way to act towards Palestinian civilians rather than simply painting them all as murderers beyond redemption.

      As I am sure your family members can tell you, it is possible to both follow your obligation to your country and also to your conscience. No one ever said that it was easy, but I have seen plenty of examples of remarkably noble behavior in some pretty difficult situations.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Eliav

      @Mairav,

      The answer to your question to Seven is an absolute yes. Soldiers can be professional (and even moral) also in situations in which the overall campaign they are serving is wrong. This is actually one of the most basic tenets of international law and just war theory. That’s why all soldiers enjoy POW status, for instance, even if they serve in an aggressor army. There are many rationales for this, and I won’t get into them here. Note that my comment is not related to this specific video, because I don’t know the complete facts.

      Reply to Comment
    5. rick

      I somehow understand Seven. They are ordered (I think so, otherwise forget my comment) to do the night raid and try to behave in a decent manner, saying please and even taman from time to time while getting the search done.

      the problem is a lack of legal protection for the civilians. the soldiers don´t show a warrant, don´t say what they want specific (maybe they don´t know, they are ordered to have a look) and they are allowed to do this in the middle of the night.

      It is cruel if soldiers enter your house in the middle of the night an ask to wake up minors, not the way it is done here.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Miki

      Seven – while I agree that the politicians should be held accountable for Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies, this does not give soldiers a “get out of jail free” card.
      *
      Soldiers have the right and the DUTY to refuse to obey illegal orders and actions. This is a right which the Israeli courts have also confirmed. In 1956, the Israeli courts ruled some orders should simply not be obeyed, saying “the black flag of illegality” flies over these orders and that this flag “rescinds the soldier’s duty to obey and charges him with criminal accountability for his actions”.
      *
      Blag flag orders aren’t just orders which result in the massacre of innocent civilians but are orders which are orders which are “manifestly” illegal, ie. orders which any ordinary person can tell are illegal, without having to consult a lawyer – for example entering and searching a civilian house in the middle of the night without a legal search warrant, issued by a civilian legal system is clearly manifestly illegal.
      *
      In relation to whether or not these soliders are “good” or “kind”, this is totally irrelevant. Their “goodness” or “kindness” doesn’t change the fact that the Palestinians are oppressed and are forced to live under military occupation and that the military controls every single aspect of Palestinain life. A nice pleasant military occupation is still a military occupation.
      *
      Yes, this particular commander is reasonably polite, but it doesnt change the fact that he and his soldiers have forced their way uninvited, and without any legal warrant, into a Palestinian civilian house at 1am in the morning, waking the whole family, forcing them into one room and searching the house – thus demonstrating utter control physically over the family. No amount of smiles and politeness change this fact or the fact that this soldier and those under his command are actively engaged in oppressing other human beings and violating their basic human rights.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Haggai Matar

      @Seven
      I think the problem begins with your first sentence. Why would you think that people “don’t understand what’s going on” just because they haven’t been in the Israeli army? I’ve been visiting the West Bank regularly for nearly 12 years now, so I obviously have some sort of a clue as to what’s going on there, and besides – since when can people not pass judgment on something unless they part in it?

      Just to be clear: I’m not saying that this is all the soldiers’ fault. I’m not saying they are doing what they’re doing intentionally, nor that this is the worst that a soldier can do while raiding a house in the dead of night. I’m not trying to relieve their commanders, the government or our entire society for that matter of their share of the guilt as to what we see here. Nor did I ever say or imply that “all soldiers are monsters”. Not at all.
      However, I refuse to see soldiers as nothing more than pawns on chess board. They are independent, mature and intelligent people, who make a conscious choice to be in the army and to obey these orders, and are therefore responsible – at least in part – for their acts.

      My point in this post was to show exactly the kind of thing that won’t make the front page news (or any page of news for that matter) on the daily paper. True – there’s no cruel and usual violence here. This is “just” the basic day-to-day reality of occupation: armed soldiers going into houses in the middle of the night, waking up and frightening kids, with the sole intent to smother a popular struggle against the stealing of the people’s lands. My point is exactly that even without any dramatic scenes – this reality is horrific, and is to be resisted.
      With this in mind, the officer’s statement that he just wants peace seems absurd to me.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Chsang

      I’am – as a Dutchman I guess – extreme surprised that none of the reactions express the madness of such a night raid because of stones that are thrown.
      I our country a local policeman would visit the family between 08:00 and 17:00 hrs to ask some questions about the event, for sure not a battery of combat soldiers…
      Maybe it deformation by profession.

      Reply to Comment
    9. pal2me

      I must say this looks tame compared to this IDF night time raid video..

      http://youtu.be/WQ_Z08pPMX4

      Reply to Comment
    10. Seven, if you served as a combat soldier in the territories then you should know that it is not “the politicians” who give the order to conduct such searches. It is field commanders, and not very senior ones. The Minister of Defense or the Command General does not issue an order “go raid the Tamimi house tonight at 2am. No, not Bassem Tamimi. Walid! Not that Walid, the other one!”

      This is done by officers ranked major and under. Y’all have to understand that this is not an isolated incident. There isn’t a single night when this doesn’t happen in some house in the occupied territories. Hebron, Nabi Saleh, Ni’ilin, Bil’in, Budrus, Jenin… It doesn’t really matter. And 9 times out of 10, the target is a non-militant resistance adherent.

      Reply to Comment
    11. aristeides

      The problem is the fact that the soldiers are there in the first place.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Danny

      “Do you have something that is unforbidden?”
      .
      Wow. I always thought IDF soldiers were harebrained robots, but this guy takes the cake. With his senseless questions in broken English and Arabic, this soldier accurately reflects the mindlessness of the Israeli occupation. What a disgrace it is to be an Israeli today!

      Reply to Comment
    13. directrob

      Soldiers that enter a house at night to check upon children are monsters. Monster might be only their part time job, but during that night for this family and this town monsters they were and so was everyone who let them play their monster role.

      Reply to Comment
    14. eva

      I realy do hope that when the day of occupation comes to an end, which will happen, that there will be a court room big enough for all of these soldiers that are commiting war crimes. All this talks about who ordered what etc is just silly academic rubbish talk! We all know that they are braking every ounce/millimeter of international laws that exist, against civilians……….

      Reply to Comment
    15. Haggai Matar

      @Eva
      I actually hope there won’t be. Sure, you might want one for certain heads of the system, but the rank and file soldiers? No. Wrong though their acts may be, we need to build a future here that’s common for all the people of the land. Putting all Israelis (or a fifth of them, or two percent) on trial will not allow any reconciliation.

      Of course we first need to reach the end of the occupation, but I think it’ll be easier to get there if Israelis don’t dread that day – but find it to be something they can live with quite nicely (even while giving up certain privalages)

      Reply to Comment
    16. Kernod

      Anyone who is conscripted can say no to service and pay the price. Anyone who joins the army can say no to serving in the territories and pay the price. Anyone who serves in the territories can say no to police and combat actions and pay the price. Anyone who does police and combat actions can say no to immoral or illegal orders and pay the price.

      Soldiers can say no to anything, which means that those who say yes are responsible for their actions — morally and legally. No one can use the “just following orders” excuse in the Israeli army — or in any army — to absolve themselves of responsibility.

      Reply to Comment
    17. directrob

      Kernod, I agree but I wish it is was so straightforward. These are often just kids and the government and the army is expert in using group pressure. It takes far more courage to say no than to just participate. Still I hope the mothers curse would come true, that for one night those soldiers would have her nightmares and as a consequence quit the army.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Piotr Berman

      “Do you have something that is unforbidden?”

      Young indoctrinated conscripts are on both sides of the inhumane system. Apart from harassment inflicted on villagers, you see sleep deprived youngsters barely out of high school ordered to do some nonsense for the Motherland.

      My private conjecture is that these soldiers are quite polite because they are very inexperienced. Later they will learn that every little child is not a potential enemy, but an enemy.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Piotr Berman

      “amazing lack of self-awareness”

      Somehow this comment does not fit to conscripts. To paraphrase a Russian poet (more accurate translation is hard) “I am a simple soldier. They order me, I march, they do not order, I sleep, I play with machine gun, I am always innocent”.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Apa

      @Directrob, those justifications have been used before. Thankfully not successfully.

      It does take courage, but at some point people have personal responsibility for their actions, no matter the consequences.

      Reply to Comment
    21. بداية اشكر كل من تفاعل من هذا الموضوع ولكن احب ان اقول لمن كان يدافع عن تصرفات الجنود وادعى انه لم يرى كافة التفاصيل اقول له : نعم ان تصرفات الجنود لم تكن عنيفة مع سكان البيت ليس لانهم مهذبون ولكن اعتقد ان هذا يعود الى وجود الكاميرا ففي نفس الليله في بيوت اخرى كان تعاملهم قاسيا مع سكان البيوت وامروهم بفتح كافة الخزائن واخراج الملابس منها وفتشوا كافة الغرف بدقة كما حصل هنا(https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=351630861543865&set=a.330600453646906.79499.100000908622275&type=1&theater) كذلك في الليلة التالية حصل نفس الشئ في عدد اخر من البيوت وبنفس الطرية تفتيش في البيوت وايقاظ السكان بعد منتصف الليل وتصوير للاولاد الموجودين في البيت وفي الليلة الثالثة ايضا جاءوا واعتقلوا احد الشباب
      في البيت الذي تظير في السيدة العجوز ابلغت الظابط بنفسي ان هذا البيت لا يحتوي على احد سوى هذه السيدة الا انه كان مصر على مداهمة البيت وهو كما قالت يتعمدون القدوم الى هذا البيت كثيرا بدون داع
      في كل فترة تقريبا كل ٣ اشهر يتعمدون القيام بالمداهمات الليلية بدون داعي وبدون مبرر فقط لازعاج السكان فلو ارادوا اعتقال احد ما المانع في ان ياتوا لبيتة فقط واعتقاله ولماذا القدوم الى عدد كبير من البيوت فقط للازعاج
      في كانون ثاني من عام ٢٠١١ تم مداهمة جميع بيوت القرية دون استثناء على مدى اسبوعين وتم تصوير وتسجيل كافة معلومات سكان جميع البيوت من اطفال وشباب ورجال اذا فهم يعرفون مكان تواجد اي شخص يريدون اعتقاله ولكنهم يختارون بيوت عشوائية بحجة التفتيش والتحقيق مع السكان
      ولمن يحب معرفة تفاصيل اكثر عما يحصل في قرية النبي صالح ارجو الذهاب الى حساب tamimi1966 على youtube

      Reply to Comment
    22. SHLOMO KROL

      Seven,
      Haggai Matar might not understand the situation from the point of view of the army, but the army is not the only part here. There are also people whose houses are raided at night and they did not serve in the Israeli army either. But you cannot tell them that because they did not serve in the army, they don’t understand the situation: they would response that if anybody at all understands this situation it’s them.
      Of course it’s good and important that the soldiers did not behave as “behemot”, but as I understand, this is not the main point of this article. The main point, if I understand correctly, is that we in Israel have used to such approach: we want peace and that’s why we have to use force. I don’t deny that this approach has merits, but it seems to me that the author wants to present another way – the one of solidarity and dialog rather than of force.

      Reply to Comment
    23. directrob

      Bilal Tamimi thanks for your additional information. I wish that your efforts make a difference and that one day your children can sleep without fear in a peaceful Nabi Saleh.

      Reply to Comment
    24. M Hatherstone

      Kafkaesque.

      Reply to Comment
    25. Yehuda

      Seven,

      As someone who served as a combat soldier in a sayeret unit, mostly in the West Bank, I can say that I agree with Mairav’s sentiments. Regardless of whether I was “polite” in my service didn’t change the fact that I was carrying out the orders of a completely unjust and abusive political ideology and system of authority.
      There is plenty of footage of soldiers acting inappropriately and even illegally, but they are rarely punished and the footage is often explained away with lies and propaganda. It is important for people to see that the occupation does not create only limited isolated instances of injustice. To the contrary, the occupation is spawning new cases of injustice by the week, day, hour and even minute. Yes, there are plenty of examples of soldiers behaving far worse, but if someone busted in to your house in the middle of the night, terrifying your family (remember they don’t know which soldiers are the “polite” ones, and which ones are waiting to kick their teeth in), fully armed, barking commands in a foreign language, I have a feeling your reaction wouldn’t be “it could be worse, they could have shot me in the face.”
      Injustice is injustice, even if down the street a greater injustice is being committed. “There are people who are far worse,” is never an acceptable excuse, just as China’s abuse in Tibet, or Sudanese atrocities in Darfur, etc. do not legitimize Israel’s occupation.

      Reply to Comment
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