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While you were sleeping: The systematic terrorization of Burin

Israeli civilians terrorize the village of Burin; as usual, they are aided by the strongest army in the Middle East.

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

File photo of masked Jewish settlers using slingshots to throw stones at Palestinians (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

To paraphrase Tolstoy, every village in the West Bank is miserable in its own way. The curse of Burin, in the Nablus region, is that it neighbors two particularly troublesome settlements, Har Bracha and Yitzhar. Attacks by Israeli civilians coming from these settlements against the residents of Burin are almost daily occurrences; in one recent week, no fewer than four such attacks were documented. (More about Burin, see here).

The problem with these attacks has less to do with the Israeli civilians and more with the fact that they are generally accompanied by IDF soldiers who protect them even when they carry out pogroms. There’s a standard procedure for these attacks: the Israeli civilians descend on the village in order to attack it, sometimes attacking the school or some of the outlying, isolated buildings; the villagers organize themselves for self defense and throw stones at the invaders; and then, the strongest army in the Middle East rushes in and fires tear gas canisters, stun grenades and from time to time rubber-coated, or even live bullets, at the villagers. All of which happens not while the Palestinian residents attack or raid a settlement, but when they are trying to defend themselves and their homes.

And the aid the IDF supplies to the marauders does not end here. Last November, a pogrom broke out according to the outline above. A large group of Israeli civilians came down from one of the hilltop outposts toward the village. The residents of Burin, who already know this routine by rote, went out to push them off their property. Shortly afterwards, IDF troops arrived on the scene, and instead of evacuating the invaders and defending the residents, they outdid themselves. This time they did not limit themselves to shooting tear gas canisters and throwing stun grenades at the Palestinians who tried to defend their village; they threw stun grenades into the house of a child, H, age 14, and threatened his mother, M., that if she didn’t open the door, they’d keep throwing them into the house.

In case you are fortunate enough to have never experienced a stun grenade explosion, I’ll just say it is an unpleasant experience, to say the least. Usually, the army uses them against demonstrators in open spaces; their effects there – a strong explosion which deafens and blinds – is limited. However, originally this weapon was intended to be used in a confined space, in order to neutralize armed targets within a structure. In a confined space, where the shock waves are much stronger, this is an actual weapon, capable of causing actual damage. This is what IDF troops fired into a civilian house that seemingly posed no danger to them.

Following the threat, M. opened the door and the soldiers stormed in. They found her son, H, who was on the roof during the incident, and demanded that he stay where he was and not move. They kept him on the roof for an hour and demanded that he identify stone-throwers from among the villagers below.

Then came the procedure everyone who has ever served in the occupied territories knows: the hands of H – a reminder: he’s a 14-year-old child – were handcuffed with tight, rigid plastic cuffs behind his back; his eyes were blindfolded with gun-cleaning cloth. Were the soldiers in any danger from him? Was he taken to a particularly secret military facility, where scientists whose very existence is denied are developing the weapons of tomorrow? No, he was taken to the police post in Hawara, a place known to all. So why the blindfold? Because the oh-so-strong army, which recently went on a viral campaign telling everyone how strong it is (stronger than coffee!), had to prove itself stronger even than a bound child of 14, and that it can humiliate and terrorize him.

During the ride, according to H, he was beaten by the soldiers. When the jeep he was driven in stopped, he was pushed out to the ground – a bound and blindfolded child, yes? – while the soldiers laughed. Then they gave him water. H was brought before a police interrogator, who demanded he identify stone-throwers. When H said he was incapable of doing so, since they were hooded, the policeman slapped him. He was taken out of the interrogation room and told to sit on the pavement, where the soldiers abused him some more. Then he was put in the jeep again and driven to the Burin Junction. There the soldiers took him out of the vehicle, allowed him to call his father to tell him to pick him up, and drove off. This is how seriously the IDF takes the protection of minors held in its legal custody: abandoning them on a road.

So, in sum: we’ve seen a break-in to a house by threat, the arrest of a minor without an adult present (which Israeli law is strict about), the abuse of a helpless minor, an attempt to make a minor into a police informant against his will and the abandoning of a minor on the road. All of the above is the result of collaboration between the army and Jewish hooligans: the army kidnapped a minor from his house in order to extract information from him, through abuse and violence, which will allow the framing of people who were trying to defend themselves.

Needless to say, the contradictory scenario – the kidnapping of a Jewish child from his home in order to blackmail him into incriminating others, all through the use of violence and throwing stun grenades at his house – is unthinkable. And that’s a good thing. But what can we say about this gap in rights?

If the army were to invest less aggressiveness against 14-year-old Palestinian children, and more effort into preventing pogroms by government-funded Israeli civilians, perhaps it could say of itself that it’s not only strong, but also moral. So far, this has yet to happen. And as long as you prefer not to know what is done in your name, and with your taxes, this is unlikely to change. Just as the army is ultimately responsible for the rampages of the settlers, those who fund and manage the army are responsible for its outbursts.

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.

WATCH: Masked settler beats Palestinian with metal pipe
When maintaining law and order means assaulting sheep 

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    1. “Just as the army is ultimately responsible for the rampages of the settlers, those who fund and manage the army are responsible for its outbursts.”


      I fail to understand how those who say that Palestinians will ultimately come to an accommodation cannot themselves see that such behavior is shaping a new generation into profound dislike and distrust of Israel, no different, in its repeated long term manner, as the suicide bombings themselves. When violations like the above are routine without redress, there is no reason to trust or think well of Israel at all. The occupation becomes designed to continue the occupation through the occupation.

      I stress that even if the occupation is needed to prevent bombings and enhance security, these acts beyond legal oversight do nothing to that end; if anything, they nurture hatred for the future, as the soldiers have themselves nurtured hatred and disgust to perform them.

      Only silence can produce this kind of blindness. I believe such silence is often present in child abuse families as well.

      Reply to Comment
      • oh–forgot: the page linked by “stronger than coffee” does not exist.

        Reply to Comment
      • Vadim

        I fail to see how Palestinians that demand a one state solution or a RoR cannot themselves see that such behavior is shaping a new generation into profound dislike and distrust of Arabs.

        People that have never seen a single Jew, let alone an Israeli, that live thousands of miles from here become obsessed with hatred when they hear something about us. This is the same for decades now. In times of peace, in times of war, before 1967 and after 1967 (and during 1967), in places near and far. This hatred is not natural, it is fueled by preaches, speeches, movies, newspapers and other forms of propaganda.

        The future hatred is very well nurtured regardless of whether a certain Moshe threw a stone on Muhammad, kicked his sheep or broke his tree. In times of need, moshe will be invented. Moshe will try to destroy and Temple Mount, Moshe will try to spread drugs among Arabs, he will send his daughters to give Arabs AIDS, he will send his hogs to their fields and his sharks to their seas.

        How can people ignore this?!

        Reply to Comment
        • So go ahead and kick around 14 year olds? Really? Those who do encounter Israelis nearly solely as IDF or vanguard settlers, maturing just as you matured, will confirm the views you detail with real stories. Moreover, the claim that prejudicial stories enable real stories of fear and humiliation involving acts which seem to have little relation to real security feeds directly into that prejudice, and creates prejudice in the other direction, soldier to occupied.

          I for one have seen a few Israelis; I was there twice, some time ago.

          You don’t have to do these things yet you do. What does that say to you about you? Or is there no one there to speak and hear?

          Reply to Comment
          • Vadim

            Greg, of course not. I’m not justifying any sort of violence. I’m just saying that there’s an effort put into making sure we are hated.

            “You don’t have to do these things yet you do. What does that say to you about you? ”

            That we’re not perfect.

            Reply to Comment
          • This report is on a 14 year old. One can be less imperfect here. As Yossi notes, this treatment would be unacceptable if done to a Jew under Jewish authority.

            Better is all anyone can do. But it can be done. Long distance hatred has nothing to do with what happens to this boy. It is IDF response that is determinative. In fact, the true haters of Israel want you to be indiscriminate–they predict you will be indiscriminate.

            Reply to Comment
        • Jan

          If the only Jews that Palestinians see are Jews with guns, Jews in IDF uniforms that brutalize them, Jews as settlers stealing their land and killing their livestock how can they ever think that there are decent Jews – Jews that do not behave like vicious oppressors.

          I remember long ago when I hated every German. I know people who even today will not buy anything made in Germany. Because of what was done to the Jews we hated Germans.

          Why should we expect the Palestinians not to hate us?

          Reply to Comment
          • Jan, the PLO was formed in 1965 and began their terrorist activity immediately, long before the Palestinians saw Jews with guns brutalizing them, settlers stealing their land, killing their livestock and whatever else you can think of. Why do you think they hated us even then? Try to get some balance in your opinion. Read some sources and websites that will give you a different viewpoint.

            Reply to Comment
          • Vadim

            I remember the early 90s, I bet you do as well. Israelis went shopping in Palestinian markets, Palestinian came en masse to work in Israel. We had a very courteous Arab gardening in my neighborhood that kept trying to teach me words in Arabic.

            All those lovely interactions, all those examples of courteous behavior on both sides didn’t help at all when the time came to explode in buses.

            Your theory that we are hated because of the interactions in which Arabs meet us is simply wrong. It doesn’t explain the hatred felt towards us in distant lands. It doesn’t explain the eruptions of rage in both Intifadas.

            I also have a feeling that the feeling you felt towards Germans is not exactly what some feel towards Israelis. You call it by the same name – Hatred – but it’s not actually the same thing.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bombings, suicide and otherwise, are effective because they color all of their protagonist’s class as responsible, which is facially false. One can make a security argument that all of this class must be treated identically, but this is not the same as an argument of uniform intent. Bombing transport and cafes, etc. makes the false identity easier to assert–which is one of the bombers’ hopes.

            Anger will generalize to rage once violence erupts. Neither in the time of the first Intifada nor now would you want you or your family to live in the Palestinian’s conditions (the PLO was initially opposed to the first Intifada for it was not under their control, but were forced to co-opt it as they could; the rage you mention there began through life lived).

            I believe the second Intifada somewhat different. Those bombings were as much fighting within Palestinian group politics as hits on Israel. One goal of the bombers was to evoke an Israeli response, hitting the PA as such–which happened; recall the IDF rocket attacks on PA police stations and the like.

            I assure you some will seek to disrupt any rapprochement with bombings. There are people whose social economy is nothing but the polarized conflict and they get satisfaction from each IDF village raid. But they are far from all the people, and certainly not 14 year old boys. To say that these 14 year olds will grow into such–well, the same thing has been said of others.

            There is no easy way out of the accumulated hate of generations. I think adding on the hate of distant foreigners to be a mistake–indeed, an excuse. Rights jurisprudence tries to find a way out of that hate by focusing on individual wrongs. Is it a gamble? Yes. If such gambles are never taken, what of the future? You can always go back to slamming down again; no one can stop you when you decide to do that. My view is that under the best scenario bombing will trickle off, not stop at once. But nor will IDF reaction–and abuse–go away over night either. I guess one’s anger depends on what bed one rises from.

            In my view we are presently giving the bombers a long term win.

            Reply to Comment

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