A Crying Shame

For the Israeli army, the problem is the left-wing NGO B'Tselem, not the occupation.

Niva Lanir
Niva Lanir
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Niva Lanir
Niva Lanir

The crying caught me unawares. Despite Channel 10's news program opening with a segment on the "Israel Defense Forces detaining a 5-year-old Palestinian child for investigation," I didn't expect children crying, and I didn't move away from the television screen.

The cry came out of the television and filled the house. Just like that, unexpectedly, in the middle of the summer, a child – a Palestinian, no less – crying bitterly, crying and crying "up to the heart of the heavens," as my mother would say. Standing beside him are seven or eight soldiers and the child - who for some reason does not feel safe surrounded by soldiers - continues to cry. A soldier explains to passersby that the child threw a stone, and the child cries without end. An officer reaches the scene and says to the soldiers, "Pictures like these cause public relations damage," and the child, crybaby that he is, cries.

I'm really no hero when it comes to matters of frightened, crying children - regardless of gender, race or creed - and after five minutes of the broadcast, I could already barely breathe. I waited for the statement from the IDF Spokesperson's Unit like air to breathe. There was something to wait for.

And until it came, several details - perhaps secondary in importance, perhaps not - were shown on screen: The child, Wa'adi Maswada, was taken, accompanied by a teenager, to his parents' home. He isn't 5 years old, says his mother; in September he will be 6. In one version of events, the child hid in a closet until his father came. In another, he hid under a pile of mattresses. His father was arrested and taken, blindfolded and handcuffed, to a military base, with Wa'adi in tow. Wa'adi then grabs his father's hand and is quiet. Surrounded by IDF soldiers, they are waiting for the arrival of Palestinian police. Cut.

"We regret that B'Tselem has chosen – on a regular basis – to distribute videos of this kind to the media before clarifying the issue with the army first," the IDF Spokesperson's Unit said in a statement. "The incident involved a minor who threw stones at a road in Hebron. IDF soldiers detained the minor, transferred him to his parents and then to Palestinian police for further handling."

The sophistication will kill us. Demonstrators in Tehran, Cairo, Istanbul, Sao Paolo and elsewhere use cell phones and tablet computers to broadcast directly to the world. With us, we preach ethics to B'Tselem. If so, why not close the B'Tselem breach? The organization calls on too many channels in too many countries, on YouTube and social media, broadcasting "pictures that cause public relations damage" - and all this before clarifying things with the IDF!

And really, why would the channel that broadcast it, and the newspapers that published the story, not clarify with the IDF what they were doing with a child who has yet to reach the age of criminal liability? Or, why IDF soldiers serving in Hebron don't know what they are forbidden to do with a child who hasn't even reached the age of 12? And why they blindfolded his father and handcuffed him? Really, why? So they clarified: "The matter," the IDF spokesperson said in response, "will be examined by the relevant authorities." What a relief.

The sophistication will kill us. Why throw the book at B'Tselem? Wouldn't it be wiser to warm up the engines of legislation? Hasn't the time come to call on MK Yariv Levin (Likud ), for example, to pass a B'Tselem law? To silence, to constrain and to distance? In the meantime, one can clarify with the IDF spokesperson precisely who those "relevant authorities" are, and if those same authorities will provide their findings to the media. And why B'Tselem was asked to clarify "the matter" with the IDF. But mainly, what is a small and smart army?

A bonus to the incident was expected, and didn't take long to arrive. On Israel's version of "Meet The Press" (on Channel 2 ), Deputy Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud ) explained that a stone can kill. It's lucky he explained that, because we missed the lesson about David and Goliath. We must have gone to the beach that day. When Akunis is asked, he will also explain how the economic boycott against Israel grew. It's not B'Tselem, stupid! It's the occupation. O-c-c-u-p-a-t-i-o-n.

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