Over-policing? It's Israel's Over-armying That Should Be Halted

During the last seven days of August, a typical week, the Israeli army conducted 107 raids, set up 129 flying checkpoints and killed two Palestinians in the West Bank.

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Israeli soldiers during a raid on the Jalazun refugee camp, June 16, 2014.
Israeli soldiers during a raid on the Jalazun refugee camp, June 16, 2014.Credit: AFP / Abbas Momani

In seven days and nights between the evening of August 24 and the morning of August 31, the Israel Defense Forces and the police carried out 107 raids on homes, villages, refugee camps and urban neighborhoods in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem). In that same seven-day period, the IDF set up 129 flying checkpoints on West Bank roads, delaying Palestinians getting in and out of their villages and towns.

During that period, Israeli security forces arrested 114 Palestinians, mostly in raids but sometimes at fixed and flying checkpoints. Israeli soldiers and police used live fire 47 times during that period and/or fired rubber-coated bullets, stun grenades or tear gas.

For example, on August 24 and 25 alone, raids were conducted in Tayasir, Hizmeh, Al-Amari, Silwad, Qabatiyah, Jayyus and Budrus (where troops also set up a post on the roof of a house they took over). But the list goes on: Beit Amin, Hableh, Zeita, Iraq Burin, Jama’in, Al-Zawiyeh, Bethlehem and the Al-Arroub refugee camp. (Full details appear on the website of the PLO’s negotiating department based on information from the Palestinian security services.)

In Qabatiyah there was a nighttime raid on the home of Sari Abu Ghurab, a young man whom an IDF soldier had killed about 12 hours earlier. The Israeli version is that stones were thrown from a Palestinian car at Israeli troops from below the settlement of Yitzhar. The IDF forces (presumably in an armored jeep) chased the offending vehicle and collided with it in a scene out of an American movie. Rambo got out of the Palestinian car; the IDF Spokesman’s Office said he lightly stabbed a soldier, who immediately shot and killed him.

A photo on Palestinian websites shows Abu Ghurab sprawled on the driver’s seat bleeding and without a shirt. If shot outside, how did he end up in the driver’s seat? He was released from prison a few months ago and was due to be married; he had even rented an apartment in Nablus, where his fiancée lives.

But it was a “light” week with “only” two Palestinians killed. The soldiers’ account of the second Palestinian fatality, a man from Silwad, was quickly proved false and the man’s body was returned to his family for burial. The circumstances regarding Abu Ghurab’s death remain obscure.

On August 25 and 26, raids were carried out in Deir Nidham, Jalqamus, Azoun, Sebastia, Deir Ballut, Daheisheh, Yatta, the Al-Aroub refugee camp and several villages in firing zone 918. (The soldiers had lost military equipment and went looking for it in at least five villages.)

On August 30 and 31, among other locations, there were raids in Al-Azariya, Abu Dis, Isawiyah, Al-Ram, Turmus Ayya (to summon a 14-year-old to report to the Shin Bet security service), Shuqba, Al-Arqa, Zeita (from 9:40 to 11:40 P.M.), Anabta (from 2:35 to 6:30 A.M.), the Nur al-Shams refugee camp (from 2:20 to 5:15 A.M.), Talfit, Iraq Burin and Deir Ballut.

Rude awakening

Sick of reading all this? Then imagine dozens of soldiers who are either masked or their faces daubed with paint bursting into a home or neighborhood in the middle of the night, accompanied by dogs. They wake the residents up with stun grenades.

In some places, family members are ordered to gather in a single room and soldiers point their rifles at them. Then they leave the house in disarray, clothing strewn around, mattresses left in piles, closet doors broken, rice spilled. It’s a routine thing with more than 100 raids a week, and every soldier is his mommy’s darling.

Sick of imaging all this? So we’ll forgo the rest of the week and the long list of flying checkpoints set up without warning around the West Bank and the inconvenience that it caused drivers. We’ll forgo the humiliation, the fear caused by having a rifle aimed at you, the car searches, the delays in getting home, sometimes until almost midnight, or the late arrivals to work meetings in the middle of the day.

And that’s without mentioning all the shooting at Gaza fishermen. On August 25, an Israeli battleship northwest of Beit Lahia fired its cannons on several fishing boats. Two battleships approached the boat of two fishermen, one age 24 and the other 68, from the Jabalya refugee camp. One of the ships fired. The younger man was wounded and arrested and the boat was damaged.

On August 27, Israeli forces again opened fire on fishing boats. Two fishermen, ages 21 and 22, were arrested and their boat and the equipment in it was seized. The two were released that afternoon, but not their boat.

On August 28 and 29 it was the same story. Palestinians set out in the hope of making a little money from the sea, and our handsome naval commandos shot at them. Two fishermen, a father and son from the Al-Shati refugee camp, were arrested and their boat was seized. It’s not clear if they’re still in custody or where.

Are you still with me or have you been overcome by boredom? “It’s natural,” you’ll say. If there are raids and arrests, it’s a sign the IDF and police are doing their job.

It’s natural, the same way police chief Roni Alsheich said over-policing against Ethiopian Israelis is natural, but he immediately added that this was “problematic,” even before the big protests triggered by his remarks. But in our case, amid all this over-armying (to put it mildly), our crowd in the Colosseum cheers and shouts encouragement.

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