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Israelis' Shock at Police Violence at anti-Netanyahu Protests Is Quite Shocking

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Israeli border police members detain a Palestinian demonstrator during a protest against Jewish settlements, in Haris near Salfit in the Israeli-occupied West Bank August 21, 2020.
Israeli border police members detain a Palestinian demonstrator during a protest against Jewish settlements, in Haris near Salfit in the Israeli-occupied West Bank August 21, 2020.Credit: RANEEN SAWAFTA/REUTERS
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

For a moment I thought I would begin by writing that I welcome every blow delivered by a Jewish police officer to a Jewish demonstrator on Jerusalem’s Balfour Street. But I changed my mind. Violent police – who are arousing such shock among the mainstream media these days – are situated on the same continuum as individual and gang rapists, sexual harassers, nursery school teachers who abuse toddlers and social media bullies. I changed my mind because in my search for a lead for this article, this literary stratagem (“I welcome every blow,” etc.) does not apply to all parts of that continuum.

All those individuals are people with power and physical strength, who resort to violence in order to harm and cause pain to others – just because they can. To feel strong and superior, to scare and silence. And in order to enjoy themselves. Let’s not forget that dimension. Enjoyment and satisfaction are an important component in demonstrating superiority, in the act of causing pain to another person.

How Trump demolished dishonest Netanyahu's non-denial denialCredit: Haaretz Weekly

All the recent expressions of shock are encouraging: from the spontaneous demonstrations against rape culture and the forgiving attitude toward acts of rape and harassment, to the condemnations in the media that are putting the police on the defensive. Such shock is evidence of the health of a society.

That’s on the one hand. On the other hand, however, the shock at police violence on Balfour Street is surprising. Or to be more precise – it’s shocking. It demonstrates that Israeli society does not understand how deeply mired it is in a culture of superiority, of birthright entitlement and of the divine right to exercise our muscles to attain satisfaction, real estate and a cheap and submissive work force.

Or again, to be precise: Israeli society is living in a state of conscious denial. It refuses to internalize the scope of violence that it is nurturing. And I refer not only to police violence against Palestinian in East Jerusalem or against Palestinians who are Israeli citizens.

A police officer holds his arm on the neck of a protester, Jerusalem, August 22, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman

Fifty-three years of military, police and Shin Bet security service domination over about 5 million people are exactly that: violence. Supremacy. Satisfaction with the violence and the supremacy. Every floor tile in every house in every Jewish settlement is just that: arrogant, prolonged violence, which is defended day and night by brigades and generations of our delicate and armed children.

As part of their calling to garner real estate in the West Bank, they go out to make arrests every night, including of minors. They throw them to the floor of their jeeps, handcuff and blindfold them. In about 50 percent of the cases they hit minors. A slap here, a kick or shove there. Because they can.

Open the website of the B’Tselem human rights organization to the “Updates” section. You’ll find several examples there of kicking, laughter abuse by Israel Defense Forces soldiers in uniform. Yes, I know. The right-wing propaganda has succeeded. For you the testimony of an Arab about an attack – not documented in full in a video clip, from every angle, and preferably on the smartphone of the soldiers themselves – is worthless. By the way: That’s also violence, to first believe the version of events espoused by the ruler, the one in power. The strong one, which is us.

And still, maybe the physical blow delivered by a police officer did upset something in the collective denial mechanism, and you’ll realize the connection between it and the routine violence by soldiers, only an iota of which reaches the B’Tselem website. Not killing. Not serious injury. Just incidental violence, along the way. Because they can.

Jump from there to another website of bleeding hearts, that of Yesh Din rights organization. Read the statistics: The chances that a Palestinian complaint about a soldier’s violence against him will lead to prosecution are 0.7 percent. And is there any need to mention the extent to which Jewish Israeli citizens who harm Palestinians and their orchards, in most instances, receive immunity from a police investigation and prosecution?

From January through August 10, 2020, the United Nations counted 163 incidents of assault by Jewish Israelis, from the settlements, against Palestinians. Of them 49 were physical attacks that caused wounds and bruises. There were 114 attacks against orchards, crops, fields and other property. What is the systematic turning of a blind eye to these attacks, if not a blow delivered by Israeli society – again and again?

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