The footage captured two stone-throwers. Around 18 or 19 years old, faces exposed. We won’t keep you in suspense any longer: we can tell you right now that they’re both Israel Defense Forces soldiers and were throwing stones at some Palestinian girls dressed in their school uniforms. The IDF spokesman says the stones were not thrown at the children. That’s open to interpretation, because at least one of the soldiers is standing in front of the children, and his stones force them to stop in their tracks.
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This was last Thursday, October 27, around 1:30 P.M. The place: Between the villages of Tuba and Twaneh in the South Hebron Hills, on the road that passes beneath the illegal and unauthorized outpost of Havat Ma’on. The two stone-throwers, in IDF uniform, stood next to an armored vehicle that contained at least two more soldiers. The soldiers also used a slingshot, to increase the range.
They were just kidding around, you’ll say. They didn’t hurt anyone. They’re kids themselves. They were bored, just letting off a little steam. Let’s be so bold as to defy political correctness and note that one of them is black, obviously Ethiopian, so he must have plenty of reasons to be angry and need to vent.
According to a 2004 agreement, the IDF is supposed to escort the schoolchildren who live in Tuba and attend school in Twaneh twice a day. The path, which is about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) long, has always been used by the residents of Tuba and the other villages in the area. After the outpost was built, its residents began harassing the Palestinians on the path below. Children were traumatized. They couldn’t sleep at night, and their parents couldn’t afford the transportation that would take them the long way around to avoid the violent settlers.
Thanks to the parents’ persistence, and the efforts of some Israeli and international organizations, the fight for the rights of Tuba’s children to get to school didn’t vanish. It was brought before the Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child. A compromise was reached: The state wouldn’t punish the violent settlers, but the IDF would try to deter them with its presence.
A short video clip of the stone-throwing soldiers reached Haaretz on Friday morning and was immediately sent to the IDF spokesman for a response, which arrived very quickly: “The commanders are on their way to look into the matter,” we were told on the phone. And then came the written response: “An initial investigation revealed that the stones were not being thrown at the Palestinians, and as soon as the soldiers noticed them, they stopped what they were doing, went to the children and escorted them back from the school – which is located close to Havat Ma’on. Soldiers are not expected to be throwing stones during a military mission, and therefore the incident is being investigated.”
The adult who accompanied the children part of the way and filmed the incident told Haaretz that the soldiers didn’t go over to the children, but rather waited as they made their way cautiously toward them, trying to fathom the meaning of the stone-throwing.
And in another incident two days before, not unrelated, two women activists from the Machsom Watch grassroots organization set out for their shift at the checkpoints in the separation barrier between Qalqilyah and Tul Karm. Their mission: To ensure that the IDF does not prevent farmers from reaching their lands, which are severed from the village by the barrier.
The women stopped at the checkpoint near the illegal settlement of Salit. At 4:15 P.M.,15 minutes late, four soldiers arrived in a civilian vehicle to open the gate for the Palestinians returning home by tractor, wagon, donkey and minibuses. A smiling soldier called Yuval approached and said the reason for the delay was security related. That’s what soldiers always say when they’re late to open a locked gate.
Yuval asked the two women to drive through the open checkpoint and proceed onto a security road to which no unauthorized entry is permitted. As the women subsequently reported, “Two older women with plenty of life experience made the mistake of their lives by obeying a pleasant young soldier” who said he wanted to talk to them. And then, once they were on the road, the nice soldiers – who were in constant contact with their control room – informed them that they were being detained until the police came, because they had entered a forbidden zone.
The soldiers were nice guys, as I said. They even made the women coffee. But they were following orders from the control room to detain the two women, and with their pleasant ways lured them into the prohibited area. “They claimed we arrived via the West Bank,” recounted Shosh, one of the women. “We told them, ‘Sure, where else would we be coming from? And since when is it forbidden to travel in the West Bank?’”
They also tried telling the soldiers that it was a waste of time, that the police would come and release them straight away and be annoyed at the nuisance. “It was like talking to a wall. We don’t have anything against the soldiers. The problem came from above. They were ordered to detain us.” After countless telephone calls between the soldiers and commanders, and as it was already getting dark, the women were told they were free to go. So they weren’t able to check the situation at two other checkpoints. Maybe that was the whole point of the exercise?