'Escalation' Is When Palestinians Lose Self-restraint

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Palestinians complaining to Israeli soldiers during clashes between Palestinians and Jewish settlers, seen in the back, in the West Bank.Credit: AP

“[The Israel Defense Forces] Central Command is completing preparations for possible clashes in the West Bank beginning at the end of March,” Amos Harel reported in Haaretz on Sunday. In fact, reserve battalions from the Judea and Samaria Division have been called up for a series of stepped-up training exercises in advance of a possible escalation of the situation.

This prompts several comments:

1. It becomes apparent from periodic reports of “preparations for escalation” that the IDF – in other words, that force defending the occupation – views itself as a party that is only reactive. It is not responsible for escalation and certainly isn’t initiating any such action.

2. If it were not for those Palestinians who got stuck between the military bases, the roadblocks, appearing on monitors in situation rooms and in the armored personnel carriers, the IDF could have fulfilled its real destination: as a society for the protection of nature.

3. If the Palestinians had pushed themselves in among our beloved settlements from the Lucifer outpost in the southern West Bank to the Reihan settlement further north, our soldiers could have been devoting themselves to helping the elderly cross the street.

4. Here’s a case of non-escalation: Armed Israelis raided the Deheisheh refugee camp in the West Bank last Tuesday night. They killed a young Palestinian (because those insolent Palestinians resisted the intrusion into their homes). In a raid the previous evening on the Aida refugee camp, an armed Israeli force wounded five young Palestinians with live ammunition. They too had the nerve to resist the raid and a kidnapping attempt.

On Friday, another force of armed Israelis from that army defending the settlements broke up a demonstration in Hebron using live ammunition consisting of rubber-coated metal bullets, along with stun grenades and tear gas. The armed Israelis wounded about 20 demonstrators, including – according to Palestinian reports – five with live ammunition fire. What nerve the demonstrators have, protesting the expulsion of Palestinians from the center of Hebron, emptying it of its residents.

5. In 2014, Israeli soldiers and police from those settlement defense forces injured 5,868 Palestinians in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem). On a weekly basis, on average the army carries out 75 raids on West Bank Palestinian neighborhoods and villages. Last week, during the night between Tuesday and Wednesday, the forces carried out 29 raids throughout the West Bank and abducted about 20 Palestinians from their homes. That same day, the Palestinians recorded 192 occupation-related incidents: soldiers who injured residents, blocked roads and carried out arrests, as well as attacks committed by settlers. That was a good day. No one was killed.

6. Another non-escalation: On Saturday, two residents of the West Bank village of Jab’ah, southwest of Bethlehem, were detained by soldiers while on their way to work their land. That same day, armed crews on Israeli battleships fired at fishermen north of Gaza City. Other armed Israelis fired at farmers in the central Gaza Strip.

7. What is non-escalation on Israel’s part? The expansion of construction in the West Bank settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim; the confiscation of Palestinian land to build a new garbage dump for Jerusalem; restrictions on Palestinian construction and grazing in Area C – the portion of the West Bank under the full control of Israel, control of water resources to an extent that there is no more water fit to drink in the Gaza Strip; and demands that people cooperate with the Shin Bet security service in return for reinstatement of work permits. And then there are the curses, including sexist ones, uttered by contractors and drivers working for the IDF’s Civil Administration, directed at demonstrators and journalists at the “Gates of Jerusalem” protest camp at Abu Dis.

8. Another case of non-escalation: Last week, soldiers at the Beka’ot checkpoint in the northern Jordan Valley disrupted traffic (between Nablus and the Jordan Valley) on orders of their commanders. They carried out inspections of cars on just one side of the checkpoint, while the Palestinian motorists on the other side were left killing considerable time. The soldiers then switched to inspect the other side, creating a long line of vehicles where they had first carried out inspections. When asked about this unreported incident of harassment, the IDF spokesman’s office responded: “In light of repeated attempts to break into the checkpoint recently, temporary changes have been instituted in the security arrangements at the crossing. It involves a security-related and operational step and is aimed at enhancing oversight at the crossing.” Collective punishment by wasting people’s time? Can’t be.

9. “Escalation” is always at the Palestinians’ initiative and they are responsible for it. It’s escalation when the Palestinians cease fulfilling their obligation to exercise restraint.

10. Nevertheless, escalation is good for the army. It means more training exercises, more funding, joint forces training using live ammunition, using up old ammunition stockpiles to make room for the new; first-time use of newly-developed weaponry and new weapons orders from the United States and India. The names of new officers begin to become better known. That will be good for their resumes in the future, when the opportunity arises to apply to serve as a military attaché abroad, or to train units protecting a dictator somewhere or some gated community for millionaires in South America.

11. Escalation is also good for the top leadership. The people align behind the leadership and the idea that we, the Jews, are yet again the persecuted victims.

12. Escalation is good for the Jews. The problems of housing prices and discrimination against the periphery pale by comparison. It is again clear that we are one people standing behind one leader and one army.

13. Non-escalation is also good for the Jews. Construction continues in the settlements of Ma’aleh Adumim and Ariel in an effort to solve Israel’s housing shortage, along with the expulsion of Bedouin (for the above purpose). Deals are signed for the sale of weapons to the world. Israelis continue to be prison warden to the world’s biggest prison (Gaza); and people continue to vote for the right wing, because it and the army are always right – both when the Palestinians exercise restraint and when they don’t.

Amira Hass tweets at @Hass_Haaretz.com

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