Appreciate this article? +972 depends on your support.

Click here to help us keep going

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

Why IDF soldiers stand idly by when settlers attack Palestinians

By Dana Golan

Last Saturday, a B’Tselem video camera captured an incident of settler violence that began with rocks being thrown at Palestinians near the village of Asira al-Qibliya in the outskirts of Nablus, and ended with live shots fired by the settlers and a wounded Palestinian youth.

Anyone who saw the video could easily make out the IDF soldiers standing next to the settlers, doing nothing to stop them. Those watching from the sidelines may have been surprised by the useless stance of the soldiers. But anyone who understands the reality in the Occupied Territories well knows that that this is just another example of the long-entrenched paradigm that constitutes the basis of IDF activity on the ground: We are not here to protect Palestinians. Not when the settlers burn their olive trees or throw rocks at them. And not even when settlers shoot at them.

The most extreme outcome of this paradigm was the massacre at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994. When Baruch Goldstein, a settler from Kiryat Arba, entered the Tomb, there were no cameras to record the incident and no soldiers (or Border Police officers) to stand in opposition. But even if they had been there, it’s reasonable to assume that they wouldn’t have been the ones to stop the firing. The reason for this, as published in the report by the Shamgar Committee charged with investigating the incident, is that the rules of engagement given to Border Police officers serving there at the time forbade them from directing any fire of any kind at a Jewish settler. In testimony given by one of the officers to the Committee, the explicit command was described: “Arms may not be used against any Jewish settler in Hebron, along with any crowd dispersal method, even if said settler is endangering my own life or the life of an Arab near him.” Another commander from a Border Police company in Hebron testified that the rules regarding disturbance of the peace by a Jew were, “to take shelter so as not to be injured, to wait until his weapon jams or the magazine runs out, and to then try to overpower him through other means.” Baruch Goldstein was stopped when his weapon jammed; the result was 29 Palestinians killed and dozens injured.

After the Shamgar Committee investigation, the rules of engagement changed. The command to wait for a weapons jam was replaced with the direction to “instruct the shooter or person endangering life through other means to cease his actions, or to try to overpower him immediately, while using reasonable force.” In the case that the shooter is not deterred by the soldiers’ requests to cease fire, they are required, according to the IDF instructions, to carry out something similar to the “procedure for detaining a suspect”: shots in the air, shots towards the legs, and only then, shots to neutralize the danger.

This is how it is on paper. In reality, the soldier on the ground receives oral commands that preserve the order to do nothing in instances of Israeli fire towards Palestinians, and in instances of less severe violence, “to serve as a buffer.” Soldiers on the ground are well-trained to take action when a Palestinian attacks, but not when he is the victim of settler violence. Most of the testimonies given to Breaking the Silence don’t relate to the commands given in the instance of an Israeli shooting at a Palestinian because the perception is that the IDF is in the Occupied Territories in order to protect the settlers, and this is the basis for all routine IDF activity. You don’t shoot at the ones you were sent to protect.

Perhaps its because I served in Hebron, or perhaps because I’ve been exposed to many soldier testimonies that describe incidents of settler violence towards Palestinians – but I cannot understand the Israeli public’s amazement surrounding the video from Saturday. After nearly 45 years of occupation, even those Israelis who never served in the Territories should already know that this is what life looks like in the “backyard” of our own State. This is the reality created by constant discrimination and the enforcement of two separate law regimes. The soldiers who just stood there should not be the targets of disgust for their unfit behavior. It is us, the civilians at home, who continue to send them there to enforce this discriminatory occupation, who should be looking in the mirror and asking ourselves how we let this reality develop and continue.

First Lieutenant (Res.) Dana Golan is the Executive Director of Breaking the Silence. She served in the Border Police in Hebron in 2001. 

For additional original analysis and breaking news, visit +972 Magazine's Facebook page or follow us on Twitter. Our newsletter features a comprehensive round-up of the week's events. Sign up here.

View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • LEAVE A COMMENT

    * Required

    COMMENTS

    1. Jack

      Its nothing strange really, this is the government policy, to bread settlers and establish settlements, the people living at those places must be cleansed. It is at those times the apartheid analogy is evident. Settlers (Jews) could kill palestinians. Even if it hold me back to say that, its a tragic fact.

      Reply to Comment
    2. What it comes down to is that there is a tacit but obvious cross-party consensus among all the Zionist parties that “redeeming the whole land of Israel” is a fundamental long-term goal, and if because of international diplomatic and legal pressures this goal cannot be officially admitted, it will be pursued methodically but unofficially. If necessary, documents will be destroyed to avoid official investigations. Where possible, the strategy will be promulgated by verbal orders rather than written ones. It’s a familiar method; other countries have employed it. The consensus is by no means a Likud bloc one only; if you read Zertal & Eldar’s “Lords of the Land” you will see integral Labour support for it from 1967 onwards. And in the coalition Labour-Meretz-Shas government of 1992-1996, Meretz joined on the basis of a commitment not to evacuate existing settlements. It’s also worth noting that every time there is any danger of a detente (“peace breaking out”) the IDF will thwart it by launching an unprovoked lethal attack on some militant Palestinian entity in order to provoke a terrorist response, thus justifying “harsher security measures.” All this was in place and functioning consistently long before the more recent concerns about the Hardalisation of the army ever arose. In other words, it is not religiously driven.

      Reply to Comment
    3. The settlers should be analogized to the SA — semi-official perhaps not sufficiently disciplined violence against Palestinians — while the Israeli police and military should be analogized to the SS — official disciplined violence against Palestinians.

      Reply to Comment
    4. aristeides

      I would like to ask the poster, since she has been there, what would happen if a police/soldier actually shot a settler or used armed force against one? Is the IDF/BP actually going to prosecute a soldier for acting in declared self-defence against a Jew, when the same act is always accepted in the case of an Arab?

      .
      I wonder how many police/soldiers think about shooting a threatening settler. How many are restrained solely by their orders? How many want to confront the settlers, except that their orders allow?

      .
      I suspect that in the majority of the cases, the orders are only describing what the troops would want to be doing, what they would do in the absence of orders.

      Reply to Comment
    5. No, that’s misleading. Israel works within the constraints of an international diplomatic and legal climate of opinion that it cannot openly disregard. Nazi Germany openly and officially disregarded international law and diplomacy. It chose to become an outlaw state, in terms of western liberal norms, and to celebrate the fact that it was doing so, quite openly. Israel couldn’t do that.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Sorry, my comment was addressed to JCSM.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Popular discourse tends to ignore the evolving nature of German Nazi practices and goals.

      The German Nazis may have been more constrained by German desire for order and legalism than by International Law, but Zionists to try to overwhelm International Law with International Zionist Shyster legalism. I am not sure there is much difference.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Nazi public doctrine espoused the legitimacy and even nobility of the quest for lebensraum. They made no effort to conceal their intention to conquer eastern Europe and make it a perpetual German dominion. What they did conceal was the policy of extermination, which developed as it became apparent there was nowhere to expel the unwanted populations to. As long as Israel remains a protégé of the USA, the ‘shyster legalism’ is going to remain, but maybe when the US loses its present global hegemony, Israel will find new partners with fewer scruples, such as China. The decline of US global power is the thing Israelis never talk about. That’s a much deeper taboo than criticism of Israel, because the loss of US power is the loss of the substitute god which stepped in when the previous god apparently died, in WW2.

      Reply to Comment
    9. It is far from clear that Lebensraum was much more than Grossdeutschland as described by German nationalists. German policy evolved, and Christopher Browning makes a good case that the policy of extermination did not develop until well into the invasion of the Soviet Union.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Quite so. And eastern Europe was full of German colonies, it had been for centuries. Hence the enormous numbers of ethnic Germans expelled from eastern Europe after the war: 12 to 14 million. But seriously, imagine Israel’s possible future in the absence of USAia (rhymes with halleluyah).

      Reply to Comment
    11. aristeides

      How did this topic get diverted onto the Nazis?

      .
      The Germans did not in fact disregard international law. In many respects they were meticulous about it. They thoroughly documented war crimes – committed against German troops. And they largely honored the letter of the Geneva conventions – in the case of Western signatories. otoh, they claimed that the USSR was not a signatory, with notorious consequences on both sides.

      Reply to Comment
    12. For the vast majority of German nationalists Grossdeutschland consisted of Germany, German Austria, part of Poland, part of Czechoslovakia, and part of France. Some German nationalists like Boeckh wished to include the entire German speech region including that of Yiddish but it was a minority position even among German Nazis.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Alan

      Joachim Martillo and Rowan Berkeley discussing “Shyster legalism.” What a beautifully sung anti-Semitic duet! Only on 972 and the website of the Zionist Occupation Government do we find such illuminating discussion.

      Reply to Comment
    14. aristeides

      When they have nothing substantial to say, they resort to personal insults.

      Reply to Comment
    15. As far as I know, a shyster is any lawyer that engages in obnoxious specious reasoning. In the 19th century the archetypal shyster was of Dutch origin.

      Reply to Comment
    16. “Arms may not be used against any Jewish settler in Hebron, along with any crowd dispersal method, even if said settler is endangering my own life or the life of an Arab near him.” IDF, 1994
      .
      This is a corporate Judaism which, I suspect, you will find many American Jews would find repugnant.
      .
      “The soldiers who just stood there should not be the targets of disgust for their unfit behavior. It is us, the civilians at home, who continue to send them there to enforce this discriminatory occupation, who should be looking in the mirror and asking ourselves how we let this reality develop and continue.”
      .
      If the IDF will not stand down armed settlers as in the present case, then the State cannot disavow a policy of ultimate removal of resident Palestinians. As long as the populace buys that the settlements and occupation are the vanguard of security, why should they see the sad events of safety?
      .
      I have come to what is probably an obvious conclusion: the suicide bombings of 2000-4 have left seemingly irreparable scars. Only a coming generation seems capable of seeing another way.

      Reply to Comment
    17. JCSM

      As if the theft of Palestine by racist murderous genocidal invaders from Eastern Europe did not leave irreparable scars.
      .
      International Law is clear on the subject.
      .
      If one interprets the International Convention for the Prevention and Punishmnent of Genocide in light of Nuremberg Tribunal Case Law, the native Palestinian population certainly has the right to relief in the form of the removal of the criminal Zionist conglomeration or in the form of the obliteration of the Zionist entity.

      Reply to Comment
    18. JCSM

      It is worthwhile to remember that Nazi Germany was willing to concede South Tyrol (and its German population) to Italy for the sake of the alliance with Italy.
      .
      In comparison with Nazi Germany, Zionist (Jewish Nazi) Israel is far more extreme and — for all intents and purposes — psychotic.
      .
      Zionist (Jewish Nazi) Israel is not a rational negotiations partner for anyone.

      Reply to Comment
    19. I think that judgments abstracted from real global power relations are bound to be absurd. Israel would be a completely different sort of animal if it were not for the USA, which is:
      (a) entirely dependent on trillions of dollars’ worth of Treasury Bonds that no-one else in the world actually wants or believes in;
      (b) undergoing a collective psychosis with delusions of grandeur, imagining it can micro-manage the entire planet using air power alone; and
      (c) at least notably influenced by, if not actually dominated by, neocons who exploit their own Jewishness to paint Israel as a damsel in distress.
      All this is too preposterous to last much longer.

      Reply to Comment
    20. max

      972mag – the platform for pure, traditional antisemitism as “fresh, on-the-ground perspective and analysis of the rich and unexpected cultural and social life in this region
      .
      Now that it’s here, best leave it to show how far Antizionism and anti-Antisemitism are

      Reply to Comment
    21. “How far Antizionism and anti-Antisemitism are”? This sounds like a “fresh perspective” alright. How far are they?

      Reply to Comment
    22. max

      As far as “Zionist (Jewish Nazi) Israel” according to JCSM

      Reply to Comment
    23. Alan

      “c) at least notably influenced by, if not actually dominated by, neocons who exploit their own Jewishness to paint Israel as a damsel in distress.
      All this is too preposterous to last much longer.”

      Translation: the US is controlled by Jews who are more loyal to their tribe than to their country.

      Thank you, 972, for providing a platform for the anti-Semites Rowan Berkowitz(his real name) and Joachim Martillo.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Berkowitz? Tell me more. I love conspiracy theories.

      Reply to Comment
    25. As for the “an elephant in the living room? I don’t see any elephant. You must just be an elephant hater” argument, you might want to take it up with Jeremy Ben-Ami of JStreet (real name Józef Beck):

      US Congressmen Live in Fear of Pro-Israeli Intimidation
      Chemi Shalev, Haaretz, May 17 2012

      Many US senators and congressmen keep quiet and refrain from criticizing Israeli policies because they live in fear and are intimidated by pro-Israeli groups such as the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), according to J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami. Ben-Ami’s assertion came during a debate with Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, a director of ECI, held on Tuesday night at Manhattan’s B’nai Jeshurun Synagogue and moderated by Forward editor Jane Eisner. Ben Ami said that because of accusatory ECI ads in the NYT and other media outlets, members of Congress are afraid of being branded as anti-Israel and are deterred by the ramifications of voicing open criticism of Israeli policies. The crowd of 700-800, mainly from Manhattan’s Upper West Side, clearly favored Ben Ami.

      Reply to Comment
    26. Woody

      Lawyers are shysters. I once saw the word shyster used to slander a Jew. Ergo, saying shyster is antisemitic. Amazing shyster logic!!!

      Reply to Comment
    27. The largest contributor to the Democratic Party, Haim Saban, tells us that he is a one issue sort of guy.
      .
      I doubt that he is unique within the hyper-wealthy International Zionist Political Economic Oligarchy.
      .
      There is a reason that US law outlaws business conspiracy — it is real.
      .
      Guess what! A lot of the crimes associated with the S&L crisis consisted of conspiracy, and 90% of those convicted were Jewish.
      .
      Well, if Jews engage in a lot of business conspiracy to benefit themselves, why shouldn’t they engage in a lot of political economic conspiracy to benefit themselves?
      .
      Alan is just a vile piece of Zionist garbage using the whining Jewish Pavlov Trigger technique to manipulate people to shut off their brains whenever he screams anti-Semitism.
      .
      How the World’s New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government and the Free Market by Janine Wedel discusses the phenomenology of the new American Jewish elite and its power without explaining the historic roots.
      .
      “Ever evolving, the flex net doesn’t have a hard boundary but rather a gravitational core.”
      .
      When we look carefully at Jewish communities in E. Europe from the standpoint of historical political economics, we invariably find that the members invariably had higher education and greater incomes than co-resident non-Jewish populations.
      .
      The movement to the US took place among communities with (Jewish-relative) above average incomes and education. Poorer Jewish communities in regions described by Jews as characterized by pogroms (the reality was more complex) generally did not emigrate to the USA.
      .
      In all cases Jewish communities were characterized by superior social networking based in historic Jewish trade and business practices.
      .
      The common and mostly false narrative that Jews rose from poverty seems to be preferred by Jewish media gatekeepers and facilitators as well as by the non-Jews that they allow to rise.
      .
      In fact if we look carefully at the late Hohenzollern and late Habsburg empires, we find that Jews had disproportionate and deleterious influence in economics and politics just as in the USA today.
      .
      How does Israel fit in to this framework?
      .
      Before 19th century secularization Jewish social networking and hence Jewish incomes were founded on a common faith and commitment to Jewish law (Halakhah) as a Universal Commercial Code. When these could no longer function as a sort of linch pin, the Jewish intelligentsia began to look for substitutes.
      .
      In the end Zionism won out, and as Wedel points out (mostly) Jewish flexnets — I prefer the phrase corrupt Jewish social networks — are undermining the political system, the social fabric, the government, and the economy much worse than was ever the case in Germany and in Austria-Hungary.

      Reply to Comment
    28. JCSM: most of that is probably quite valid as social and economic history, but I think it shows a deficiency in the understanding of different philosophies of history, i.e. what history means. Specifically, you allow yourself to say:
      “If we look carefully at the late Hohenzollern and late Habsburg empires, we find that Jews had disproportionate and deleterious influence in economics and politics.”
      ‘Disproportionate’ is probably a justified description, though many Jews are exceedingly nervous about admitting it, but ‘deleterious’ is a pure value judgment based on unacknowledged and probably unexamined prejudices in the philosophy of history. Few genuine conservatives, but all liberals and most marxists, would say that speculative capital plays a progressive role in modern history.
      However, I think the remarkable thing about the present moment is that speculative capital has ballooned out of all relation to real capital — whoever the master bankers who may be responsible for that really are, I do not pretend to say, but it pleases them to be known to the world by such names as Goldman Sachs, etc.

      Reply to Comment
    29. By the way, I don’t mean to imply that speculative finance actually rules the economies of today, or that it ruled those of Germany and Austria in the 19th and early 20th century. Speculative capital is always the most conspicuous element in a modern economy, and the most prone to scandal, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it controls everything.
      My own view is that the US, and to a lesser extent the other western economies, are primarily dependent on their armaments and oil industries to maintain a real (as opposed to fictitious) rate of return for their investing classes. The role of finance capitalism is to service these, which it does. The system as it now operates is often referred to as ‘military keynesianism,’ because the government is the sole buyer of military goods, and also the largest end purchaser of petroleum products, and the function of the financial sector is to fund this. Real returns to private capital come from high oil prices and arms sales.
      So there is in fact no verifiable Jewish or Zionist motivation in this; it’s a macro-economic solution to the problem of the falling rate of profit that has nothing to do with any particular colonial project, but everything to do with imperialism as a whole. The bankers, whoever they are, have little scope for personal preferences in it. Israel could easily be destroyed in the forthcoming wars, which doesn’t seem to bother the supposed ‘zionist lobby’ very much.

      Reply to Comment
    30. Click here to load previous comments
© 2010 - 2017 +972 Magazine
Follow Us
Credits

+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

Website powered by RSVP

Illustrations: Eran Mendel