Why Do Soldiers Help Settlers Abuse Arabs?

Yossi Klein
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Israeli soldiers detain a Palestinian during a protest in the West Bank, last year.
Israeli soldiers detain a Palestinian during a protest in the West Bank, last year.Credit: AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed
Yossi Klein

The facts are well-known: It’s a closed, conservative, religious society. Its approach to government institutions is hostile and wary. At its margins are gangs of youths, fueled by unemployment and boredom. These gangs don’t attack their own community, only their neighbors. They destroy, uproot, burn and beat. Their community is helpless, this violence ruins its image. Its leaders don’t know what to do. This thuggish behavior may fulfill some hidden wishes they harbor, but they would nevertheless like to appear to be “normative.”

The leaders of this community feebly “condemn” these criminals, expressing some tepid reservations. They try down scaling the gravity of these crimes, describing the perpetrators as “wild weeds.” They realize that sharper words will portray them as accomplices of the detested regime. When they are asked to respond with more determination, they shrug their shoulders and say: What, are we policemen? On the contrary, let the police enter our villages and sort things out.

LISTEN: Trump's 'shadow government' in Jerusalem and the offshore accounts bankrolling settlements

-- : --

The police won’t. They’re scared to. There are many guns there, with plenty of trigger-happy fingers. This sector is not large, but its power is intimidating. It is well-connected, represented in the Knesset and government. The police have no interest in clashing with it. They won’t get involved with it. So far, criminal elements from this sector have murdered children among their victims, kidnapping and murdering one and burning another. They have other methods for handling their neighbors as well. There's no precise data about their crimes, since who can the victims complain to? To the army that abets the criminals? To the apathetic, weak and submissive media?

We, standing on the sidelines, are helpless. Obviously, crimes committed by this community are not committed in our name, but they are our responsibility. These crimes bother not just the settler community, but us as well. This community is flesh of our flesh. We cannot shake them off any longer. They sit on our backs and these gangs sit on theirs. We realize that as long as there are settlers, there will be crimes committed in the West Bank. The criminals will one day replace those who now remain silent.

The settler outpost of Evyatar near the northern Palestinian city of Nablus in the West Bank, June.Credit: MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP

Those remaining silent realize that these crimes are meant to intimidate not only Arabs, but Jews as well. They are intended to warn the government and deter the army so that they think twice before dealing with the issue. They are immune, untouchable. The security service is capable of killing someone in Syria for crimes he may commit but not of punishing someone for a crime he has already committed. The Shin Bet is good at flailing its hands in the air as if making an effort to locate these criminals, but in fact it’s treading water.

Treading water is a policy no one will admit to embracing. There is not a single document in which it’s mentioned, and the heads of different security branches have not coordinated positions in a Wannsee Conference-like meeting. The policy consists of making life miserable for the Arabs, of intimidating them. It counts on people whose olives groves are uprooted or whose fields are burned not wanting to live here a minute longer.

It’s not a policy, it’s a culture. A culture of lies and pretense. A culture of those who want to kill everyone (the “extremists”) or to expel them to Jordan (the “moderates”). All of them, extremists and moderates, want the Arabs to disappear, to evaporate (since “there is no other solution”), but what would the world say? That’s why they drip violence day by day, a constant Chinese water torture. One day they uproot trees, another day they beat up children. Let them get used to it.

And who does the army dispatch to carry out this policy of making life miserable? Young soldiers fueled by 12 years of schooling in hatred, revenge and a sense of supremacy. They were told to protect everyone, but this was after they were taught to believe that Jews are always right and the Arabs always wrong. Why wonder when they help criminals and harm Arabs?

They are the ones responsible for the flourishing crime in this community. Peel away the anonymity in the term “IDF soldiers,” and you’ll find your neighbor’s son, your own son and his friends. They don’t need orders. Abusing Arabs comes naturally to them, from the heart. They are not “children,” they are powerful men who can throw an elderly demonstrator down or step on the back of another. They help the criminals because for years they have been bombarded with the message that Arabs are inferior and that the criminals are “driven by values.” They have their orders and guidelines but the faulty values they were raised on overcome any humanistic commands they received. Only later, when they grow up and become wiser, will they vote for Bibi and not Ben-Gvir.