The report in Haaretz (Chaim Levinson and Amos Harel, Thursday) that a non-combat soldier attached to the Border Police force fired, contrary to regulations, at Palestinian protesters during the riots in Beitunia – apparently because of “boredom” – does little to advance the investigation into the death of two young Palestinians at the Nakba Day protest. However, it raises other troubling questions, which are no less serious.
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The soldier, whose job and unit cannot be disclosed due to a military gag order, is connected primarily to communications. It is assumed that at a certain point he too wanted to shoot at the demonstrators and took a gun from a Border Policeman. Sources in the Chief Military Defense office, which is representing the soldier, said that as far as they know the soldier fired only two rubber bullets, and did so according to orders and with the approval of the commanders in the field.
This response not only underrates the events’ seriousness, but clouds the picture even more. Commanders of troops shooting people, even if “only” with rubber bullets, let a “visitor” accompanying them target human beings to increase his “enjoyment” of the mission? The awful moral failure underlying this incident requires the IDF to take a thorough account of itself, not only regarding the moral norms it inculcates in its soldiers, but also regarding military discipline.
The soldier who took part in the shooting at Beitunia was suspended from his job and a Military Police investigation was opened against him, but the blame must not fall only on him and the Border Policemen who were there at the time. The moral deterioration falls under the responsibility of all Israel’s governments since 1967, and especially the current pro-settlement, anti-peace government.
The story of the Beitunia shooting sums up the crime of occupation, which has turned the IDF from the people’s army, whose task is to protect the state’s citizens, into a hothouse of violence, where soldiers and policemen shoot Palestinians as though they were ducks at a shooting range.