There’s nothing like the video clip broadcast in Israel and around the world this past weekend to show the ugly, crazy and pointless face of the Israeli occupation.
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The video was shot last Friday during the weekly protest in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. In it, an Israel Defense Forces soldier is seen trying to forcibly arrest a 12-year-old Palestinian boy who has his arm bandaged. A few Palestinian women are trying to stop the soldier, until his commander instructs him to let the child go.
The IDF claims the boy was throwing stones, but one of the eyewitnesses, Jonathan Pollak – who works for this organization – denies this claim. The IDF also tried to argue that the soldier didn’t realize it was a child, a claim that seems unfounded.
The soldier’s face is masked; the women in the video are seen tearing the mask off. Unlike other recent cases of stone-throwing, the soldier didn’t use his rifle or shoot the child – unlike, for example, Binyamin Brigade commander Col. Yisrael Shomer early last month. Then, the officer fatally shot a Palestinian youth in the back, after the teen had thrown stones at the vehicle in which he was riding.
Spokesmen for the extreme right – like Ronen Shoval, a founder of the right-wing group Im Tirtzu, and Gabi Avital, chairman of Professors for a Strong Israel – were quick to denounce the rules of engagement. “My heart goes out to the soldier and his commanders, and more so to the IDF, whose hands are tied,” Shoval wrote.
But like a thousand witnesses, the pictures show that the soldier’s life was not in danger for a single second. In many previous cases the soldiers’ lives were not endangered, yet they still fired at stone-throwers. The power of the camera is stronger here than anything else.
The soldier should be commended for not firing, and his commander did well to tell him to leave the boy alone – that should have been obvious, but it has not been for a long time.
The video clearly shows, once again, the truth about a great deal of the IDF’s operational activities: chasing children. What should the soldier have done?
The images show him having no idea what to do. His commanders probably didn’t have an answer for the situation in which he found himself, and it’s doubtful if the senior IDF brass would know what the soldier should have done.
It’s hard to blame him. An army that fights children and chases them as they flee is an army that has lost its conscience. The only way to change the situation is to change the reality. There is no other way.