Where Are the Indictments Against Those Who Use Poop to Oppress?

If an Israeli artist can be indicted for defecating on a flag, is it possible to indict settlers for doing something similar to a whole people?

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Natali Cohen Vaxberg in court, November 2014.
Natali Cohen Vaxberg in court, November 2014.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher

Artist Natali Cohen Vaxberg is expected to be indicted for the crime of desecrating the national flag, after recording herself defecating on the Star of David. She belongs to a glorious and even pioneering Israeli tradition of using feces to express grievance. According to testimonies from the Breaking the Silence organization, settlers often throw used diapers at Palestinian homes. This is how Jewish toddlers in the Hebron area learn to express from infancy their protest against the Palestinians, with God-given poop.

During Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, Israeli soldiers assumed control of private Khan Yunis homes whose Palestinian residents had fled. They often took a shirt from the closet and used it as a toilet: “Defecating on the shirt ... and then taking the shirt, like a sort of ‘poop bag,’ and throwing it out of the window.” Fourteen guys in a house – there weren’t always any shirts left in the closet when their owners returned.

There is a big difference between defecating on the Israeli flag as part of an artistic project, and defecating on the shirt of a person whose house you took control of. Defecating on the flag must be protected within the framework of freedom of expression. In comparison, defecating on a person’s shirt, not in their presence and without their permission, is a very rude act. And to wrap up your baby’s excrement and throw it into the courtyard of your Palestinian neighbor is crude and antisocial behavior.

One can only hope that putting Cohen Vaxberg on trial for artistically insulting the flag will serve as a precedent to settlers being indicted for unartistically insulting human dignity. To throw a diaper full of feces into your neighbor’s yard is really to crap on the person. And to crap on a flesh-and-blood person with feelings is much more serious than crapping on a flag – which is a piece of cloth and doesn’t feel anything.

Mind you, a poop-laden diaper is merely an isolated excrement attack. Settlers know how to use their feces on an immeasurably larger scale: they know how to use it to conquer the land. According to a June 2009 report from B’Tselem, the sewage from 11 settlements near the Kana stream in the West Bank “was never treated, or was only partially treated, for 25 years, until the Kana stream conduit was completed in 2006.” Wadi Kana lies between Qalqilyah and Nablus. Until the end of the 1970s, some 50 Palestinian families lived there, having farmed the land for generations. They grew citrus fruit and vegetables there. But the sewage from the settlements flowed into the stream. For 25 years, the settlers defecated on the Palestinians who farmed their lands in the wadi, and polluted their water sources. One of these settlements is Ma’aleh Shomron.

Dani Dayan – the designated Israeli ambassador to Brazil and former chairman of the Yesha Council of Jewish settlements – lives in Ma’aleh Shomron. He even served as chairman of the secretariat there. We can assume that Dayan made daily use of the toilet in his home, and as a result took an active part in this settlement’s excrement flowing into the Kana stream.

Maybe this is the reason why Brazil stubbornly refuses to approve his appointment as the Israeli envoy in Brasilia. To defecate on the water sources of Palestinian farmers for 25 years is a serious act – much more serious than defecating on a flag. What is a little bit of poop on a flag compared to a lot of poo, a flowing river of poo, in a people’s water source?

Freedom of expression is a dirty business. Just ask Dani Dayan.