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Introspection Begins Here
By Amira Hass


Amira Hass writes for the Israeli daily, Ha'aretz.  This article appeared in the Wednesday, January 24, 2021 edition, and was sent to us by the author with permission to post it here.

Public curiosity (with the aid of its earthly representatives—the press—and thanks to the generous leaks from the place of detention) quickly located the home and family of Amana Jawad Mona, the Palestinian woman who is suspected (more precisely, almost accused) by the Israeli security services of involvement in the murder of Ofir Rahum (victim of the "Internet murder").  The families of the soldiers who, in suspicious circumstances, shot and killed a large number of Palestinians are, of course, spared this kind of painful pilgrimage.  Abad al-Muin Ibrahim, Muhammed Qasem, Fatma Abu-Jish, Yusuf Awad, Muad Abu Hadouan (aged 10) and Arij Al-Jebali—are some of the Palestinians killed by the gunfire of the Israel Defense Forces, and whose names have been mentioned in the past two weeks in various articles and news items (in the three leading daily Israeli newspapers, Ma'ariv, Yedioth Aharonoth and Ha'aretz).  These articles and news items—some relying on the few investigations conducted by the Military Police—refer to the itchy trigger fingers of soldiers involved in the above-mentioned cases.  The questions raised in the articles are a very late echo of the conclusions reached by Palestinians on the first day of the clashes - that the IDF fires lethal shots without regard for the degree of danger faced by the soldiers.

The names, privacy, families, feelings and thoughts of the soldiers who kill are jealously protected by the military system, and a lack of public curiosity.  Even the soldiers who were photographed dragging Shakhar Hasuneh (dead or seriously wounded) several hundred meters—at least one of them shows clear signs of happiness and satisfaction beneath his helmet—did not sufficiently arouse the curiosity of the Israeli press that journalists wanted to discover the identity of these soldiers.  Nobody ran to find the mother of one of these men and ask her what she thinks of her son; not surprising when the soldiers remain entirely anonymous, and had not been photographed carrying out an act such as the execution, without trial, of Thabet Thabet.

Israel's lack of curiosity in these cases is easily understood.  Every soldier is a son, a neighbor, a cousin's friend, a brother.  Every soldier is us.  His family is our family.  Why, therefore, should we make an effort to defy the strict rules that bind the IDF spokesman, disregard the ethos of comrades-in-arms, and find the family of the soldier who squeezed the trigger and cut short the life of a 14-year-old boy?  The answers to this question are known: they were following an order; they are exhausted; they are under pressure; the Palestinians want to kill them; the Palestinians hate us; he's such a good boy at home; and tell the Palestinians not to send their children to throw stones, this is war.

In refraining from trying to find out the personal identity of the soldiers, there is an instinctive distancing from the need to find (and blame) the soldier who was simply standing guard.  Everyone knows that the soldiers—even those who could clearly be seen on television—are part of an overall system.  This system, from the first stone thrown at a uniformed Israeli, gave the green light for a lethal response.

Months before the outbreak of the Al Aqsa Intifada, the IDF prepared its soldiers on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for a "low level" war, on the assumption that political stagnation would lead Palestinian Authority Chairman Arafat to initiate clashes.  The IDF prepared a series of military responses in ascending order of severity.  At the throwing of the first stone, figures from the security establishment bombarded the Israeli public, including soldiers, with theories that the PA and Arafat had planned everything in advance.  From the start, the IDF, the police and the Shin Bet (General Security Services) did not respond appropriately to the first stone and to its message, namely that the "peace process" was a cover-up for reinforcing the Israeli occupation.  The security authorities reacted from the outset with disproportionately harsh means—means appropriate to Palestinian actions higher up the presumed sequence of possible actions

For the IDF, the presumed targets of the hypothetical sequence of Palestinian actions are the settlements and the settlers.  This much could be gleaned from many statements made by IDF officers in recent years.  The IDF's goal is to protect Israeli citizens, whose hold on the territories captured in 1967 was deliberately strengthened by an Israeli policy which cut across governments and coalitions.  From Yigal Alon, Moshe Dayan and Shimon Peres, through Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu, to Binyamin (Fuad) Ben Eliezer and Ehud Barak: All these policymakers knew that the settlements would determine the size of the Jewish state and the Palestinian entity's dependence on Israel—and they wanted this to be the case.

This war is the war for the well-being of the settlements.  The settlements and the roads which connect them were meant to perpetuate a type of Israeli domination over the Palestinians and of Jewish superiority, even if the situation is called peace.  Every lethal bullet in the rifle of every soldier is, therefore, a stage in Israel's settlement policy.

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