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Israeli Soldiers Are Licensed Thugs Applying State Violence in the West Bank

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An Israeli border guard grabs Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein (L), during a demonstration near Ramallah, on December 10, 2014.Credit: AFP

The death of the Palestinian minister Ziad Abu Ein is more evidence of how the violence of the Israel Defense Forces has become normal, an obvious routine, one that is not seen and not changed. We have been busy with “a heart attack or not a heart attack,” we dealt with “suspending security coordination or not suspending security coordination” and with “how the IDF prepares for escalation.” In other words, we have been dealing with what slightly tickles Israeli fake normalcy.

Nobody addressed the naturalness with which a line of IDF soldiers and Border Police and army jeeps set up in a Palestinian field to prevent farmers from accessing their land. There is no criticism of the nonchalance with which the licensed thugs shoot tear gas and stun grenades at old people, women and young people. And why? So they will not come near the unauthorized and illegal outpost of Adei Ad, located on their land.

Even without tear gas grenades and stun grenades, even without grasping Abu Ein’s throat – the presence of IDF and Border Police forces there was pure violence. Every pillbox in the West Bank, every military camp and Civil Administration jeep, and every tractor of the Jerusalem municipality in the eastern part of the city, they are all an inseparable part of the state violence.

The Palestinian Authority was established in 1994 as part of a deal for a period of five years: The Palestinians will not respond to the Israeli state violence, and Israel will gradually reduce the areas in which its licensed thugs apply their violence. This was the practical essence of the Oslo Accords. But the best and brightest of the Israeli forces did everything so that the Palestinians would be portrayed as the agreement’s violators if they respond to Israel’s non-shrinking violence. To shout at a soldier is also a violation of the deal. That is why Abu Ein was grabbed by the throat.

We are now 20 years after. And even if there are pockets of pseudo autonomy with Palestinian policemen (who hide during the IDF’s nighttime invasions), state violence has not retreated, not been reduced. On the contrary – it has only spread, grown stronger and even more arrogant.

The job of the IDF, the Shin Bet security service and the police is to protect the Jewish citizens of Israel, including the settlers in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem, of course). With every settler added to the proud list of preferred citizens, the means of protection must be increased. The settler population is growing, and so does the violence of the state and its institutions. The soldiers are thugs on behalf of the state and the settlers are licensed thieves, thieves on behalf of the authorities.

The land the unauthorized and illegal outposts stole is insignificant compared to the land stolen by the illegal official settlements, the bypass roads, the official institutions (Border Police, police, government, army). This theft is what must be protected. And that is the job of every soldier.

Only a minority among the settlers personally attack and endanger the lives of Palestinians. Only a minority personally abuse and harass the residents of the villages, whose bitter fate has brought them such “neighbors.” The rest of the settlers – their work is being carried out by the IDF’s lawyers and the State Prosecutor’s office, by the clerks and officers of the Civil Administration, architects and contractors, and the thugs in uniform. To be more precise: The settlers are just the well-pampered representatives of the state, its institutions and its mission of dispossession.

The minority that personally does harass is Jewish Israeli, and the IDF is required to protect them. This protection, for all the settlers, is done in two ways. One is passive: When the settlers attack Palestinians, the soldiers are absent or stand to the side. The night before Abu Ein’s death, a large group of Israeli citizens went down from the direction of the Adei Ad outpost and raided the village of Mughayer. They threw rocks at houses and cars, damaged trees and land between Mughayer and its neighboring village of Turmus Aya. The explanation that reached Palestinian authorities: The Israelis claimed a horse had been stolen from them.

The second form of protection is active: arrests, shooting, wounding, killing Palestinians and blocking their access to their land. This is the easy solution for the army: So they will not have to prevent Jews from harming Palestinians, it forbids the Palestinians from working their land.

The history of these attacks and their results – the evaporation of tens of thousands of dunams of land and a source of sustenance for Palestinian villages – is found in the impressive and shocking content of two studies: “The Road to Dispossession: A Case Study – The Outpost of Adei Ad” from Yesh Din - Volunteers for Human Rights; and the Kerem Navot’s (Naboth’s Vineyard) “Israeli Settler Agriculture as a means of Land Takeover in the West Bank” by Dror Etkes in cooperation with Quamar Mashriqi-Assad of Rabbis for Human Rights – Israel. They are required reading for anyone who wants to understand how state violence and the violence of the settlers join together, are dependent on one another, feed each other.

On Wednesday the lawyers of Yesh Din were supposed to present on the land of the four villages the petition they filed that same morning in a demand to evacuate Adei Ad. The response of Adei Ad, as was distributed to some of the journalists last Wednesday, testifies to the alliance between the thugs: “The residents of Adei Ad are busy at the moment pushing back a security incident initiated by Yesh Din. It turns out that this same organization filed a petition with the High Court of Justice this morning against the community. The residents will not be dragged into a provocation, and trust the army to do its job and distance the terrorists from the houses of the community.”

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