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'The settlers love us when we shoot Arabs'

Elor Azaria’s trial exposed just how influential the actions and ideas of radical settlers are on the conduct of Israeli soldiers in the West Bank.

By Dean Issacharoff

Israeli settlers throw stones at Palestinians, as soldiers stand on the side, during an attack by Israeli settlers in the West Bank village of Asira al Qibliya, April 30, 2013. Settlers burned fields and threw stones at houses in the village after an Israeli settler was stabbed to death by a Palestinian man. (Photo by: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

Israeli settlers throw stones at Palestinians, as soldiers stand on the side, during an attack by Israeli settlers in the West Bank village of Asira al Qibliya, April 30, 2013. Settlers burned fields and threw stones at houses in the village after an Israeli settler was stabbed to death by a Palestinian man. (Photo by: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org)

Two years before Elor Azaria fired one bullet into the head of Abed al Fatah a-Sharif in Tel Rumeida, Hebron before shaking the hand of Israeli settler Baruch Marzel, I stood in an IDF uniform in the same exact place. As video footage of the incident went public, and especially during the testimony phase of the trial, the public became exposed to the extent to which settlers in Hebron influence IDF soldiers’ conduct in violent and destructive ways.

The truth is I did not need the evidence to realize just how deep and significant this phenomenon is. From my experience as an officer in Hebron, the fact that settler Ofer Ohana yelled before the shooting, “The dog is still alive, somebody do something,” and the fact that Azaria received a handshake after he fired his gun was predictable. In fact, it almost goes without saying for anyone who has served in Hebron.

Like Azaria, I also experienced the manipulative behavior of Hebron’s settlers at that exact intersection. Nearly two years before Azaria pulled the trigger, the night the bodies of Gilad Sher, Naftali Frenkel, and Eyal Ifrach were found – the three were kidnapped and murdered by Hamas – our company prepared for retaliatory settler attacks. I deployed my soldiers along the steep road that leads to the Jilber Junction at the entrance to the Palestinian neighborhood in the heart of the Jewish settlement of Tel Rumeida. A Palestinian family, a mother, father, and several small children – walked on the street toward their house. As they got closer to the junction, the settlers screamed louder and louder. I knew that it was going to be violent. I ordered the soldiers to encircle the family and protect them with our bodies.

When the settlers realized we were not going to let them touch the family, they started throwing stones and screaming at us. I heard them say things such as “Nazi,” “You are confused,” “You don’t know who you are protecting.” The truth was at that moment they were right. At that moment, as an IDF officer, I truly did not understand who I was protecting – the Palestinians from the settlers or the settlers from the Palestinians.

Azaria is not alone

Another officer who served in Hebron, Azaria’s company commander, shed light on this reality. In his testimony, Major Tom Na’aman told the court: “The people who live there [settlers] are cynical. They want the person [the stabber] to die anyway… I know what their motives are. The fact that they yelled falsely that the stabber had a concealed explosive was only so no one would treat him.”

Like Major Na’aman, I also came into contact with this kind cynicism, witnessing firsthand the way settlers goad Israeli soldiers in Hebron, provoking them to be violent with Palestinians. A few weeks before I joined the company, a soldier shot a Palestinian demonstrator who threw a Molotov cocktail in the knee. The settlers presented him with an axe as present – a badge of recognition. There is no doubt: the settlers in Hebron love us when we shoot Arabs.

Israeli soldiers escort Jewish settlers as they tour the Old City of the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, June 4, 2016. The Israel army has enforced segregation in the city for over two decades, restricting residents’ movement according to their religion. (Wisam Hashlamoun/FLASH90)

Israeli soldiers escort Jewish settlers as they tour the Old City of the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, June 4, 2016. The Israel army has enforced segregation in the city for over two decades, restricting residents’ movement according to their religion. (Wisam Hashlamoun/FLASH90)

Breaking the Silence has collected hundreds of testimonies that demonstrate that the influence of settlers on the IDF is not unique to the Azaria affair or to Hebron.

The testimonies show that, for example, throughout the West Bank, civilian security coordinators (settlers employed by the IDF to oversee settlement security detail) exploit their positions, and at times even deviate from their authorities, to promote their own political agendas. It is routine for civilian security coordinators to determine operational protocol; in many cases they are the ones giving out orders to soldiers in real time. One of our testifiers, a staff sergeant in the Orev Nahal Unit, said that the civilian security coordinator was even defined by the company commander as “the fourth team company commander.”

It doesn’t end there. The testimonies also reveal that during their service, soldiers are exposed to ideologically-driven educational content. For example, there was an educational series guided by a settler from Ofra who, during a commander course, told the trainees: “Area C is Israeli territory in every sense of the word.” Perusing through thousands of soldier testimonies over the years leaves no room for doubt: these are not isolated failures.

It is vital to understand what happens on the ground. Breaking the Silence’s new report “The High Command,” exposes just how profound settler influence is on IDF conduct in the West Bank and how they use soldiers as tools for promoting and realizing their own political interests.

Dean Issacharoff is a former IDF combat soldier and the spokesperson for Breaking the Silence. Find him on Twitter at @Iss_Dean. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. carmen

      Most streets in israel are named after terrorists, who’ve been made heroes by the zionist press and public. azaria’s face on shopping bags from rami levi – if that isn’t martyrdom of a jewish terrorist then maybe ben gurion airport, menachem begin boulevards,etc.? Don’t forget the shrine to colonialist settler murderer baruch goldstein. F for hasbara fail Henry.

      Back to the article, thank you Dean Issacharoff for breaking the silence.

      Reply to Comment
      • AJew

        Fancy that. Arabs hate Jews, Jews hate them back.

        Now, had the Arabs not started out hating Jews as they did when they massacred the Jews of Hebron and Tzefat in 1929, and during the 1930s Arab revolt, then the Jews would not have done bad things to Arabs too.

        But now we have what we have and Carmen blames only the Jews for it even though the Arabs were the ones who started the hatred and hostilities which followed from both sides.

        Now she will try to trivialise this reality by making an inane comment about children claiming “but he started it”. That’s what she has done in the past. But this isn’t child play. There never was an option for Jews to be pacifists and turn the other cheek. That’s what we were forced to do for 2000 years and it didn’t work out too well for us. In Israel we came to the conclusion that the time to be nice in the face of hatred and hostility is over. Us Zionists or Zios as you like to call us Carmen, give as good as we get.

        Yes, I know that’s weak and foolish according to you. And yes, we would rather be your definition of “weak and foolish”, Carmen, than persecuted and dead.

        Reply to Comment
        • Baladi Akka 1948

          Those Zionist Jews really were stupid, weren’t they. If Arabs hated Jews first, I wonder why the hell they left Europe to settle down among millions of Arabs in the first place. They really should have opted for Argentina or Kenya ….

          Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            Better to be hated where we belong, in our homeland here in Israel.

            We tried many places in our 2000 years of exile but they kept on telling us go back to Palestine. Yet now that we are back you people and some of the very people who told us that, your friends probably, tell us that we don’t belong here.

            So, dear Baladi, I don’t care if you want to call us stupid but we have to be somewhere. And I think that returning to the land of our ancestors was not so stupid. In any case, this is the place where we the Jewish people are prepared to have a showdown with those who hate us for not being the same as them. This is the place where we sink or swim. Where we live or survive and survive in dignity. But be prepared to pay a very heavy price if you destroy us which was always your goal since we started returning here and joined our few Jewish brothers and sisters who never left.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            “I wonder why the hell they left Europe to settle down among millions of Arabs”

            Not quite but good try, Baladi.

            Around the 1850s, when Jews started to return to Palestine,there were no more than 350,000 people living here. A small number of whom were Jews who never fled the Roman oppressors who 2000 years earlier forced the rest of the Jews to flee.

            Reply to Comment
          • Baladi Akka 1948

            The millions of Arabs are the Arabs of Bilad al-Sham, ya himar !

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            Ya Himar?

            Thanks for offering an example of Arab hate speech. That is a form of addressing a female slave.

            Bilad Al Sham

            Thanks for confirming that the Arabs never considered Palestine or Palestinian Arabs to be a separate nation. They always considered the Arabs of Palestine to be part of greater Syria. The myth of the poor poor Palestinian people was conceived with the help of the KGB sometimes in the 1960s to try and present this conflict as a battle of the tiny Arab David (Palestinians) against the mighty Goliath (the Jews of Israel). But in reality, it was the other way around. It was the few Jews fighting against the Arab world.

            Thanks for confirming all of that Biladi.

            Reply to Comment
          • Baladi Akka 1948

            “That’s a form of adressing a female slave”
            Yeah, isn’t it … ‘himar’ is masculinum, and ‘ya himar’ is the equivalent of ‘you fool’ or ‘you jackass’. Which you surely are.
            And my pen name contains “baladi” and not “biladi”, ya himar !

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            Oooh temper temper deary. You might piss your dainties to borrow your friend’s phrase.

            You sound awfully hateful today. What’s the matter? Got out the wrong side of your cot this morning😛 What a grouch!

            Reply to Comment
          • carmen

            You really stepped into a stinking pile with that half-assed incitement (‘Thanks for offering an example of Arab hate speech. That is a form of addressing a female slave’), I mean mistranslation? – Sheesh, ya himar – won’t you ever learn? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUktuuWltHc

            Reply to Comment
          • Baladi Akka 1948

            “We tried many places in our 2000 years of exile but they kept on telling us go back to Palestine.”
            Oh, so for the last 2000 years people around the world have known the land as Palestine. Thanks for confirming that !

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            Yes they have. Why would I deny that?

            The Romans renamed Judea as Palestine 2000 years ago after they squashed nother Jewish rebellion. That was their revenge.

            After the Romans, Palestine became a province of the Byzantine empire, then it became a province of the Arab empire, then for a brief period, the Christian crusaders ruled Palestine, then the Arabs, then the Ottoman Turks, then the Brits.

            Overall, Palestine came under the rule of the Arab empire in 640 AD and it ended around the early 1500 Ad. At no stage was Palestine a stand alone Arab state. It was always a province of an empire. The last time it was a standalone sovereign state it was called Judea. And that was 2000 years ago.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Baladi Akka 1948

      Dean Issacharoff writes: “the three were kidnapped and murdered by Hamas” linking to an article by Haggai Matar who clearly states: “no connection between Hamas and the kidnapping”. This has been confirmed since, though one of the kidnappers was a member of Hamas, and though some peripheral former Hamas-guy exiled in Turkey claimed Hamas was responsible.
      Is hasbara-brainwashing so efficient that even Breaking the Silence members buy it without further questioning ?

      Reply to Comment
      • AJew

        “no connection between Hamas and the kidnapping”.

        No because Hamas hasn’t got it in them, has it Baladi? They don’t hate Jews enough? They haven’t done similar things in the past?

        But you know? Who cares whether Hamas was actually responsible or not for that particular atrocity or not. At the least it was carried out by another set of crazed, inculcated (with hate) set of Palestinian Arab youths who have the same agenda as Hamas.

        There. Happy now? Is that closer to the truth? Ok enjoy.

        Reply to Comment
        • Baladi Akka 1948

          Thanks for confirming that Hamas was not implicated in the kidnapping and killing of the three settler youth in Gush Etzion.

          Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            In your dreams, Baladi. I neither confirmed nor denied anything. I personally don’t know either way.

            I do however know that what those a…holes did to the Jewish teenagers was caused by the same hatred that Hamas espouses towards Jews. Which it also spreads amongst Arabs and which from time to time they also carry out.

            So, to me it does not matter whether Hamas was actually involved in that particular atrocity or not. It does not matter because Hamas is culpable and they HAVE done similar or worse things to Jews in the past. So either way, I have nothing but HATRED towards Hamas! Yes, I confirm the word HATRED, ya Baladi! Yes, we too know how to hate!

            Reply to Comment
          • carmen

            There’s never been any question about the zionist’s ability, stomach and affinity for hatred, unless you come from Pluto. That zionist arab hatred is the subject of most articles on +972, posted on these pages by zionist shills, on right wing rags and facebook 24/7: Israelis post anti-Arab racism online every 46 seconds, study finds | + …https://972mag.com/israelis-post-anti-arab-racism-online-every-46…/125181/

            ‘We tried many places in our 2000 years of exile’, and were continually told to go back to Palestine? WTF! How many times by how many zionists and assorted fruits and nuts on these pages insist that there is no such place as Palestine? Maybe you could straighten out those folks here who insist there is no such place as Palestine but in fact there is and continues to be?

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            Your friend Baladi already asked that inane question and I already answered it Carmen dear. So here, I’ll repost my answer just for you:

            Yes they have. Why would I deny that?

            The Romans renamed Judea as Palestine 2000 years ago after they squashed nother Jewish rebellion. That was their revenge.

            After the Romans, Palestine became a province of the Byzantine empire, then it became a province of the Arab empire, then for a brief period, the Christian crusaders ruled Palestine, then the Arabs, then the Ottoman Turks, then the Brits.

            Overall, Palestine came under the rule of the Arab empire in 640 AD and it ended around the early 1500 Ad. At no stage was Palestine a stand alone Arab state. It was always a province of an empire. The last time it was a standalone sovereign state it was called Judea. And that was 2000 years ago.

            Reply to Comment
          • carmen

            The response isn’t for me Principessa, it’s for the lovely genocidaires who constantly deny the existence of palestine – ain’t me sweet pea.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            You raised it and you raised it coz you are trying to make a point. But you missed their point. So the response IS FOR YOU. Like it or lump it.

            What point did you miss? You missed the point that my friends made ( yes they are my friends despite your inane one eyed accusations). Here let me spell it out in such a way that even you with a limited intellect should be able to comprehend:

            1. Palestine Was not a sovereign Arab country ever.

            2. Palestine was PART of a larger Arab empire for a brief period a few centuries ago.

            3. Palestine was never inhabited exclusively by Arabs only.

            4. Jews lived here before the Arabs were even heard of. And Jews lived here continuously.

            5. The last time this was a sovereign country rather than a remote province of a long gone empire, it was a Jewish state which was called Judea.

            But I am sure such details don’t impress you, deary. You’ll claim it was too long ago. Fine. Let’s have it your way. But then accept the fact that the Arab rule here was too long ago also. Now we are here and the place is under our rule. So learn to live with it. Don’t wanna? Ok then, move. Or wear the consequences if you resist our rule.

            Reply to Comment
          • carmen

            “But then accept the fact that the Arab rule here was too long ago also. Now we are here and the place is under our rule. So learn to live with it. Don’t wanna? Ok then, move. Or wear the consequences if you resist our rule.” Ooooh shucks, somebody is sounding vewy vewy angwy! Don’t piss your dainties. I can move whenever I want. That last line was really funny, even for you butch.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            Me angry at you, deary? Why? You are a helpless little pro-Arab automaton and every time you ask one of your silly questions of me, or you make one of your silly comments, you give me the opportunity to present our point of view too. I am grateful to you for that. Why should I be angry?

            Who will read it and be more informed? NOT people like you of course. But sane normal people who visit here too from time to time so reading my responses to you will give them a better chance to make up their minds in a more informed way than they would otherwise be able to do just by listening to the likes of you. Hey, they may not always agree with me either. That’s fine. But I have no doubt that normal sane non extremist people (not people like you ‘m dear), will tend to agree with me more often than they agree with you.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “Now we are here and the place is under our rule. So learn to live with it. Don’t wanna? Ok then, move. Or wear the consequences if you resist our rule.”

            Gustav the Judeofascist Conqueror comes clean and erases five years (more?) of pretending to be something else. February 14, 2017, a day that shall live in infamy. Lol. I like this much better. It’s a world open and clean. No more pretendies and subterfuges. Fresh air.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            “February 14, 2017, a day that shall live in infamy.”

            Poor old Benny-leh. If I were you, I would stop smoking what you are smoking. LOL 😂

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            The funny thing is, Generalissimo, is that this is you, stone cold sober–a classic:

            “That’s a form of adressing a female slave”
            Yeah, isn’t it … ‘himar’ is masculinum, and ‘ya himar’ is the equivalent of ‘you fool’ or ‘you jackass’. Which you surely are.
            And my pen name contains “baladi” and not “biladi”, ya himar !

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            Poor Benny, he has run out of insults. He has had to stoop to plagerising someone else’s idea of insults.

            You are at your wits end, aren’t you Benny? You are running out of steam. Must be that stuff you are smoking. Time to lay off it for a while maybe? 😝

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            “Ya Himar”

            Yea, the Hebrew equivalent of it is Hamor. See? We are cousins after all. Yes, the literal meaning of both words is Jackass. But I was right. In the context in which Baladi used it against me, it was a way that Arabs used to address female slaves. In other words, it is hate speech. Which is ironic since Baladi is not bashful about complaining when Jews are guilty of hate speech.

            Oh well, I wouldn’t expect any more from the likes of Baladi, Carmen and our inimitable Benny-leh 😋

            Reply to Comment
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