August, the cruelest of months. The sun is blazing in the hills, so this is obviously the most suitable time to wear ski masks. At least, that's what happened when Israel Defense Forces soldiers carried out a raid in the West Bank village of Jinba (as Amira Hass reported last week in Haaretz). Anonymous soldiers, their faces covered with black masks, landed from the morning sky in helicopters and began mapping the area in the southern Hebron Hills.
The soldiers reportedly photographed the cave dwellings of the residents, their tents and other structures. What reduces the hope that the masks hid a team from the Israel Mapping Center is the fact that they also carried out other actions that are not necessarily in the sphere of geodesy, even when talking about Palestinian villages.
According to the report, the soldiers emptied out the contents of the closets, and in some places also the contents of jugs of milk and cream. It is therefore possible to reject the notion that they were cartographers and to raise another conjecture - that perhaps a team from the Central Bureau of Statistics was actually behind the masks and inside the uniforms. Sure, a little bit clumsy and lacking a sense of order, but deeply interested in all the small details, such as what the volume of the jug was, or how the cream was absorbed into the sand, for example.
Okay, enough of that. It is clear to all of us that this was the IDF. A unit of one kind or another - what's the difference? The main thing is that they arrived by helicopter because it's so terribly hot now (and thanks to generous tax payers ). The masks didn't hide their weapons. Nor did they hide the determined face of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who doesn't want villages there but rather a firing range.
Most of all, he doesn't want Palestinians there. And if he is not allowed to evacuate them now, this instant, with bulldozers and trucks, he will send more and more soldiers there to make their lives miserable, to frighten their children, to throw things out of closets, to spill the milk and not to cry over it afterward. To spoil their crops, to wake them in the middle of the night, to abuse them, be cruel to them, and to exhaust them.
As if the villagers of the southern Hebron Hills haven't had to - and still have to - put up with terrible things all the time from the IDF and settlers. But they have remained there. They are still holding on to the cave that they call home, instead of disappearing.
Mapping is such a clean word but it hides such dirty actions - breaking in, searching, vandalizing, upsetting lives, terrifying, threatening. The soldiers landed, they made a big mess, they disappeared. The same routine took place the previous week in four other villages in the area. So why talk about this so much? No one was killed, right? That's what the IDF does in the territories. That's how the lives of the Palestinians are in the areas that Israel wants for itself. What's new?
So let's go back to what seems to be new. The masks. Is this an operational demand or some kind of fashion statement? It wasn't the middle of the night, when one's skin must be camouflaged. It wasn't the freezing cold of January, when one's cheeks must be kept warm. And if the idea is to protect the youth from the danger of the sun's rays, there are less dramatic means. But if the intention is to scare and threaten, this is an excellent way to do so. Instead of war paint, give us masks. We'll go around like armed ostriches with blackened faces and an operational shower cap, and no one can see us, even if they photograph us.
It is easier to perpetrate ugly acts when we don't show our faces. I don't have the slightest reason to think twice before I vandalize. Me or him - you will never know. Even if my picture is displayed in the newspaper, there's no problem. It was all of us who did it - we are all one body, hands, feet and weapons, but no faces. So perhaps it is hot, but it is so convenient. Let every Hebrew mother know what her son's commanders send him to do in the army, and what he does. It is preferable.
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