Opinion |

12 Minutes and 46 Seconds: When Israeli Soldiers Are Thieves in the Night

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
IDF soldiers raiding the DCIP headquarters
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

The day after the death of 12-year-old Mohammed al-Alami of the West Bank village of Beit Ummar, was reported on by the Palestine branch of the Defense for Children International NGO last Wednesday, Israeli soldiers raided the headquarters of their office in El Bireh, and stole six desktop computers, two laptops, one external hard drive and a few binders containing the personal details of children represented by the organization.


Now the report on the boy’s murder by soldiers while in his family's car with his father and younger siblings, and the report on the raid share a page on the DCIP website: a snapshot of a smiling boy on a snowy day, and above it a frame from surveillance camera footage of more than a dozen uniformed personnel crowded into the lobby of DCIP’s offices.

Every Palestinian home, government institution and NGO is vulnerable to such acts at any time, a prerogative that a foreign and hostile regime of military occupation, which has lasted for 54 years, has arrogated to itself. Under the shadow of droit du seigneur, this regime trains and educates its young soldiers to break down locked doors, to wake young and old alike at gunpoint and to break, steal and throw away the possessions of others – just as it trains them to shoot at women, children and the elderly, to injure and kill, to destroy homes, to make countless families homeless, including many children, and to protect those who steal land and natural springs.

In any normal context, all of these would be considered acts of crime and terror, whose perpetrators must be brought to justice. But in Israel – where military rule over another people is as natural as the slavery regime was until recently, for those who profited from it, directly and indirectly – break-ins, thievery and murder are normative, the heart’s desire of proud Jewish mothers and fathers. The streets of Israel are bustling with mostly men who have spent their best years carrying out such normative crimes.

For 12 minutes and 46 seconds, the surveillance camera recorded the actions of the soldiers carrying out the raid, until one of them disconnected it. The video shows about 10 Border Policemen, two or three uniformed soldiers serving in the Civil Administration and a third uniformed soldier without special badges. In any case, the break-in and burglary were carried out on the orders and under the supervision of the Shin Bet security service.

The funeral of Mohammed al-Alami in Beit Ummar in the West Bank last week.Credit: Majdi Mohammed / AP

The burglars did not leave a document indicating who issued the raid order. They did not leave a receipt for the stolen property, they did not arrest or summon for questioning in advance any of the directors or lawyers of DCIP, who are well known to the military for representing Palestinian juveniles who are arrested and tried as part of the routine of protecting the settlements.

The Spokesperson’s Unit of the Israel Defense Forces did not respond to questions from Haaretz on the issue. It said only that “The security forces acted … as part of the campaign against terror funds.”

This, too, is the droit du seigneur of oppressive regimes of all kinds: to toss around the word “terror,” when they are safe and protected from all supervision and criticism. In the future, the documents proving that everything was a deception will be discovered, and news stories about it will be the lead headline for a few minutes.

But we are in the present and we know this: The break-in, the confiscation and the intimidation by use of the word “terror” are meant to sabotage the activities of this organization, to tarnish its name and to undermine its credibility and the credibility of its reports in the eyes of the international community.

This is an old tactic, in which the conquered and the subjugated are portrayed as criminals, while the conqueror and the oppressor casts itself as a victim to protect itself. Now the question is whether diplomats and international institutions will fall into the trap of this cunning tactic.

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