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Two sides of the same coin: How soldiers and settlers complete each other

Most of the time, soldiers and settlers are not adversaries; they are two sides completing each other. The settlers despoil the Palestinians of their land, and the soldiers pretend they have no choice but to defend them.

By Yesh Din (written by Yossi Gurvitz)

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)

Some three weeks ago, S., a resident of the West Bank village Qusra, which is under constant terror attack by settlers, took his herd of goats out to pasture. As he was herding his goats around a building belonging to his family which was destroyed by settlers, several IDF vehicles reached the scene.

A few troops stepped out of the vehicles, and one of them walked over to S. and his herd, and began kicking the goats. When S. protested, the soldier began shoving him and threatening him, as some of the IDF’s finest documented the whole thing on video while laughing heartily.

Even though S. maintains he wasn’t even close to the nearest outpost – Esh Kodesh – the soldier threatened that if he sees him again, he’ll make him pay heavily. And then came the really interesting threat: “If you aren’t gone in ten minutes, I’ll call the settlers, they’ll handle you.”


It’s common around here to say that yes, there is injustice in the territories, but that which is carried out with malice isn’t done by soldiers – every “good” Israeli was a soldier, and they don’t like the image projected at them by the cameras – except by settlers. The latter are often presented as a force of nature, which manipulates the political officials as if they were a marionette, and there is not much to do about them. But the soldiers are not to be blamed. At worst, they may be frustrated/tired/depressed/cranky, and hence from time to time to blow up in some Palestinian’s face. But it’s never out of malice, just negligence. The situation is to blame, not the soldier. And when the situation is to blame, no one is to blame.

But the reality on the ground is significantly different. The settlers would not be able to terrorize their neighbors if they didn’t know they had the support of the strongest army in the Middle East, which can turn a village into a training site because it feels like it, or can turn into an armed gang at the drop of a hat. Without the army, the settlers could not exist.

And vice versa: without the settlers, the army would find it difficult to maintain its hold on the West Bank. Retreating from some godforsaken military camp is much easier than from a “settlement.” Throughout the settlement period, the army – allegedly a neutral body, taking its orders from the elected government – was a part of the land theft scheme. No settlement and no outpost were built without the army giving it, at the least, tacit quiet approval and often much more (not to mention sending its men to defend the new outpost).

Most of the time, soldiers and settlers are not adversaries; they are two sides completing each other. They are the good cop and the bad cop. The settlers despoil the Palestinians of their land, and the soldiers pretend they have no choice but to defend them. By being there, the settlers allow the army to pretend it has a legitimate mission of protection – even though the legal function of the army is defending not the squatting settlers but the indigenous population of the occupied territory, i.e. the Palestinians. Furthermore, as more and more members of Israel’s established classes avoid the army, since its mission of occupation can no longer be hidden, the settlers provide it with soldiers and officers.

The use of settlers as the soldier’s nightstick is not new: when the IDF went berserk in Awarta after the Itamar massacre some 30 months ago, settlers reported that soldiers told them how to bypass the army’s own roadblocks so they could wreak havoc in the village themselves. In one case it was reported that a Border Policeman provided a settler with a nightstick and asked him to hit the residents of Awarta in his name. In another case, soldiers asked settlers to harm the villagers in their stead, since they are forbidden. This is where things stand, away from the high command: the common grunt sees the settlers as a whip to hold over the Palestinians’ head. Their violence is self-explanatory, and is a useful tool for maintaining order.

Or, rather, terror.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

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    1. rsgengland

      This seems to just another of those nudge nudge, wink wink articles with endless unsubstantiated allegations.
      This time though, the names of two locations were thrown in to try and give the stories substance.
      Only if you have a preconceived opinion of the situation in Judea and Samaria, [only called the West Bank after Jordan attacked, occupied and annexed the area after 1948, Ethnically Cleansing all the Jewish inhabitants in the process], could the evidence supplied in this article be taken as anything other than unsubstantiated prattle.

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        Serious case of denial you’ve got there, england. You ought to have it looked at.

        Reply to Comment
      • ‘Unsubstantiated’ happens to have a definition, which is not ‘I don’t want to believe this, so I won’t’.

        I will not easily forget asking a soldier if he would move a group of settlers who were threatening three teenage girls (all with severe anxiety disorders) whom I was trying to get safely home, only to be told, “I know these guys, and they aren’t touching you, they aren’t hurting you.” This while I had a fourteen-year-old girl who was visibly very distressed clutching at my shoulder and crying after a little gang of grown men had stalked her down the street, laughing and shouting insults and threats.

        There is a reason why international observers have to provide escorts to and from school for girls like her. It’s because the army can’t be relied upon to protect them.

        Reply to Comment
        • rsgengland

          I did not say anything about believing or disbelieving any allegations in the article.
          I said none of the allegations are substantiated with any form of evidence.
          Every Yesh Din article is always a series of allegations about unnamed persons, in vague locations telling stories about what may have happened to them, but always without any corroborative evidence to support those allegations.
          I think the word “hearsay” comes to mind.

          Reply to Comment
          • Not always, if my memory holds. I recall one case where an East Jerusalem resident was left dazed in his car during a hot day, eventually found by friends or family who went looking for him. Apparently Boarder Guards (?) made some fun with him. Here, hiding identity is irrelevant. In the Bank, however, retaliation has no authority for appeal; hence the anonimity. I suspect, but don’t know, that Yesh Din’s files are open for inspection. In some cases, the detailed court histories hereon would allow the diligent to recover names.

            I think Yesh Din knows fabrication would destory the format they are developing here. And, in any case, the wealth of material makes fabrication irrelevant.

            Reply to Comment
          • Joe

            I wonder what substantiation would be good enough anyway.

            Either you think that people are going out of their way to spread wild unsubstantiated stories (which, let us face it, you are claiming are actually lies) or you believe they sound credible.

            Only if you have a preconceived opinion of the situation in Judea and Samaria, [only called the West Bank after Jordan attacked, occupied and annexed the area after 1948, Ethnically Cleansing all the Jewish inhabitants in the process], could the evidence supplied in this article be taken as anything other than unsubstantiated prattle.

            Rubbish. You don’t need any preconceived ideas to see abuse of residents by settlers. Maybe you should go and see for yourself.

            Reply to Comment
          • Joe

            Sorry, I messed up the code, I was replying to @rsgengland

            Reply to Comment
    2. aristeides

      Looks to me like those guys are throwing stones. Where are the house Zionists to demand that this criminals be arrested like 5 year old Palestinians are?

      Reply to Comment
    3. The High Court ruled some time ago that settlers, even when illegal (which here just means w/o prior State approval), must be protected as Jews by the IDF. Since, although illegal, they must be protected, they can expand their behavior to other acts illegal at least in Israel proper and still expect/demand IDF protection: so destroying trees, interfering with herding, violence to residents, destruction of property. The High Court essentially attached the IDF to a settler slow motion national/religious war; thus settler acts attach to the State. If you believe in this war all is fine and proper; the IDF is not, nor has ever been, there to protect Palestinians. With victory, this creates a defeated class in servitude. And that is a One State outcome. Israel then has three clases of residents, in order of legal standing: Jewish Israeli citizens, Arab Israeli citizens, and subjugated Bank residents. This last will be economicall exploited, and will act as a break on expanding Arab Israeli standing.

      Reply to Comment
    4. dickerson3870

      RE: “How soldiers and settlers complete each other” ~ Yossi Gurvitz

      ANOTHER NICE EXAMPLE:“Jews protect Palestinians in harvest of hate” ~ By Donald Macintyre in Awarta, West Bank, ‘The Independent’ (U.K.), 10/10/08
      • Israelis cross religious divide to shelter olive farmers from settlers’ attacks
      [EXCERPT] . . . Born in Tel Aviv, Ms Siew served in the army, took a university degree, then a teacher’s diploma. Thirty-six years ago, she took the tough decision to emigrate to London, telling her parents: “I won’t come back until there’s peace.” Ms Siew, who is now 64, remains an Israeli citizen but now lives with her British husband in Hebden Bridge. She has kept to her word, except that each autumn she comes back to stay in her hometown with her relatives and spends each day of the two-month harvest season picking olives on Palestinian farmland in the West Bank.
      And Ms Siew does that for a purpose. Up on the ridge above us, you can see the red roofs of Itamar, a notably hard-line Jewish settlement, and she is here to help protect the Palestinian farmers from the threat of settler violence which has so often scarred the olive harvests.
      Last year, she was in a group in the South Hebron Hills confronted by settlers who fired shots from a pistol and an M16 assault rifle, despite the presence of the army and police. “Then one of the soldiers said, ‘Look, one of them is coming down with a jug of water for you’. The settler emptied the jug over me. It was full of human sh*t.” . .
      ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/jews-protect-palestinians-in-harvest-of-hate-956706.html

      Reply to Comment
    5. Noevil9

      Israelis have been so submersed in denial and twisted lies for so long, that they don’t seem to be able to raise their heads to save their own souls. Great reporting Yossi, keep it up, so maybe some will wake up and get the courage to face the truth,as you guys did.
      Without naming names, some commentators on this site could not be diagnosed with anything thing except psychosis of the denial in its extremest form recorded. Believe me its not ignorance, nor lack of information.

      Reply to Comment