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Mockupation Israel: IDF trains in Ashkelon playground because it ‘looks like Gaza’

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The The Lyn Stacie Getz Playground in "Park Baltimore," Ashkelon, Israel. (Photo: Nicole Rosenberg)

The The Lyn Stacie Getz Playground in “Park Baltimore,” Ashkelon, Israel. (Photo: Nicole Rosenberg)

In late November the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) ran a Gaza ground invasion training exercise by occupying an Ashkelon playground—explosions by the swing set and all. The mock raid was a surprise to suburban residents who awoke to find their town invaded. Haaretz journalist and artist Roy Chicky Arad was tipped off in advance the military would practice a ground incursion for the besieged coastal Mediterranean strip near a manicured recreational play area.

Arad first meets the IDF hiding behind flowers at a gas station. “We are a defense force. We have no idea when the clash will be,” said a commander in the Gaza Brigade before the middle-of-the night operation was underway. As day break approached, Arad tailed soldiers fresh from a nap as they tromped through Ashkelon, “a well-maintained city that really doesn’t look anything like Gaza,” to their to their mission site: a playground. Arad continues, the soldiers were ready to “to eliminate any pockets of possible resistance.”

Here’s Arad:

It was still dark when we arrived, but the sun soon rose over occupied Ashkelon, heralding a hot and uncomfortable day for the poor soldiers. It wasn’t clear why a playground had been chosen as a place to establish a position in occupied Gaza, as it were. I assume it was someone’s bad joke. The very fact of the exercise demonstrates aggression, given the relative quiet lately; we certainly wouldn’t be pleased to know that in Gaza or in any other Arab city they were practicing the conquest of Ashkelon.

Ilan, the photographer, and I were the only journalists at the site. The soldiers had been instructed not to talk to us. But in war as in war, and I managed very quickly to obtain intelligence regarding where the other squad had gone. I made my way to Amnon Street, where a young soldier was walking along the cobblestoned streets, of which there probably aren’t too many in Gaza. He said he’d been ordered not to talk to us and continued to walk among the villas.

We’re reported extensively on IDF training exercises in the West Bank. Large swaths of villages in the Jordan Valley are frequently used for live-fire exercises. As one would imagine, these exercises terrify local Palestinians who are unable to immediately distinguish between an actual raid, and a mock raid. Mock raids include parachuting soldiers, tents in the village’s mosque, and even shooting Palestinian residents.

In addition to training in Israeli communities, for years the IDF has engaged in live-fire drills in the West Bank. “Not abandoned villages nor areas specifically developed for training – simply normal towns where people live,” said Shay Davidovich who mock raided Palestinian villages in the Jordan Valley as a reservist. “Imagine a massive amount of infantry troops all around, with explosions shaking the earth under your feet. Tanks and attack helicopters open fire as soldiers run through the village setting off stun grenades,” continued Davidovich who is now a coordinator for Breaking the Silence. “At no point did I stop for a second to think about the fact that we were training around villages where regular people live their daily lives.”

Then in 2012 a series of West Bank villages were closed to Palestinians for Israeli army training.  The residents had to relocate to makeshift tent villages in nearby towns. For months they lived in Hoovervilles within earshot of F16s flying overhead. The military said the flat agricultural lands of the Jordan Valley resembled the hilly terrain of southern Lebanon, which are about as visually similar as Ashkelon is to Gaza. Around that same time the U.S. military even joined in on the operations for Austere Challenge, the largest U.S.-Israeli joint live-fire training exercises yet. Live-fire training exercises will likely continue. The high court upheld them in November 2013. +972 Magazine called Palestinians mere “props,” walking and talking props, for the military’s games.

But inside of Israel mock raids are less common.

Still last summer the IDF conducted training practices in a dormitory for Hebrew University. Around noon, without notice the military traipsed through the college student’s halls, weapons-out for the university housing themed exercise. The students “inside the dorms head the soldiers getting off the Jeeps and shouting their codes,” said Hebrew University student Nirsreen Ghanimeh, continuing, “the ones who were outside the dorms and trying to get in had been told they can’t do so, because of ‘something temporary.’” Ghanimeh said most students, except for some activists and a few locked outside the building were not bothered. Mostly her peers were confused. Some said live-fire was used. Some said only sound grenades.

But overall the Israeli students, like the residents of Ashkelon were not bothered to temporarily surrender their living space to the army. “Residents who were walking their dogs seemed pleased to see young fighters trying to catch some shut-eye under the slide,” wrote Arad. Perhaps it’s a mark of how accustomed Israelis are to the military presence. I’ve yet to encounter a day where I walk Israeli streets without spotting the dark green or tan of a young soldier in uniform. Off to serve or back from serving, seemingly most Israelis don’t mind.


Allison Deger
About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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10 Responses

  1. OlegR
    December 12, 2013, 3:06 pm

    Aren’t a bit late with this story.
    I mean i did came back from it two weeks ago.

    • talknic
      December 12, 2013, 7:58 pm

      @ OlegR Uh huh…… Learning how to slaughter Palestinian toddlers must be tiring

  2. Shuki
    December 12, 2013, 3:09 pm

    When you have to defend yourself against cowardly terrorist who hide behind children, these types of training exercises are necessary.

  3. DICKERSON3870
    December 12, 2013, 4:54 pm

    RE: “We’re reported extensively on IDF training exercises in the West Bank. Large swaths of villages in the Jordan Valley are frequently used for live-fire exercises. As one would imagine, these exercises terrify local Palestinians who are unable to immediately distinguish between an actual raid, and a mock raid.” ~ Roy Chicky Arad

    MY COMMENT: So the Palestinians are kept wondering, wondering, wondering what the situation is. That’s the way the Israeli’s want it.
    The idea behind “maintained uncertainty”* is to keep ’em guessing! That induces in the Palestinians a sense of “permanent temporariness”.
    It is also an excellent way for Israel to imbue Palestinians with a sense of “learned helplessness”.**

    * FROM ALISTAIR CROOKE, London Review of Books, 03/03/11:

    [EXCERPTS] . . . It was [Ariel] Sharon who pioneered the philosophy of ‘maintained uncertainty’ that repeatedly extended and then limited the space in which Palestinians could operate by means of an unpredictable combination of changing and selectively enforced regulations, and the dissection of space by settlements, roads Palestinians were not allowed to use and continually shifting borders. All of this was intended to induce in the Palestinians a sense of permanent temporariness. . .
    . . . It suits Israel to have a ‘state’ without borders so that it can keep negotiating about borders, and count on the resulting uncertainty to maintain acquiescence. . .

    SOURCE –

    ** FROM WIKIPEDIA [Learned helplessness]:

    [EXCERPT] Learned helplessness is the condition of a human or animal that has learned to behave helplessly, failing to respond even though there are opportunities for it to help itself by avoiding unpleasant circumstances or by gaining positive rewards. Learned helplessness theory is the view that clinical depression and related mental illnesses may result from a perceived absence of control over the outcome of a situation.[1] Organisms which have been ineffective and less sensitive in determining the consequences of their behavior are defined as having acquired learned helplessness.[2]
    The American psychologist Martin Seligman’s foundational experiments and theory of learned helplessness began at the University of Pennsylvania in 1967, as an extension of his interest in depression. Quite by accident, Seligman and colleagues discovered that the conditioning of dogs led to outcomes that opposed the predictions of B.F. Skinner’s behaviorism, then a leading psychological theory.[3][4]

    In the learned helplessness experiment an animal is repeatedly hurt by an adverse stimulus which it cannot escape.
    Eventually the animal will stop trying to avoid the pain and behave as if it is utterly helpless to change the situation.
    Finally, when opportunities to escape are presented, this learned helplessness prevents any action. The only coping mechanism the animal uses is to be stoical and put up with the discomfort, not expending energy getting worked up about the adverse stimulus. . .

    SOURCE –

  4. RoHa
    December 12, 2013, 8:24 pm

    I’d like to believe this is to give them a second chance to learn the basic rules:

    1. Share everything.
    2. Play fair.
    3. Don’t hit people.
    4. Put things back where you found them.
    6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
    7. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody.

    (Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten )

    But I don’t.

    • RoHa
      December 13, 2013, 8:23 pm

      1. Share everything.

      The Palestinians were prepared to share the land with the Zionists, but the Zionists wouldn’t share. They wanted an exclusively Jewish State, starting in at least part of the land but with the avowed intention of taking the lot.

      2. Play fair.

      This means acknowledging the equal humanity and equal rights of other people. Zionists do not care about the rights, concerns, or interests of anyone but Zioinst Jews.

      3. Don’t hit people.

      Israel was founded by violence.


      Take responsibility for your actions and the consequences that follow. But Zionists blame it all on “Muslim refusal to allow a Jewish State”, “innate anti-Semitism of everyone in the world except Jews”, etc., and then demand that the US cleans up the mess.

      6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

      Such as land, farms, orchards, houses, businesses, libraries. All stolen by Zionists.

      7. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody.

      The Zionists refuse to even admit the harm they have done, let alone apologise for it.

  5. OlegR
    December 13, 2013, 6:05 am

    1. Share everything. / Really you share everything ?
    2. Play fair. /Unless the game is for your life then by all means “בתחבולות תעשה לך מלחמה”
    3. Don’t hit people. / Unless they want to hit you or have hit you first.
    7. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody. / Unless somebody deserved it.

    • talknic
      December 13, 2013, 11:45 am


      1. Share everything. /“Really you share everything ?”
      Palestine was partitioned by default of Israel declaring independence.
      The Palestinians have said they’d accept only 22% of what remained of Palestine
      Israel takes and takes and takes, offering nothing, sharing nothing

      2. Play fair. /“Unless the game is for your life then by all means “בתחבולות תעשה לך מלחמה”
      Steal other folks territory by deceit and expecting to get roses in return is stupid

      3. Don’t hit people. /” Unless they want to hit you or have hit you first”
      There were already Jewish forces outside the territory slated for the Jewish state on the day it was declared. The moment Israel was declared, the civil war exacerbated by Plan Dalet in Palestine became a war waged by the State of Israel on what remained of Palestine. Israel’s wars have been preemptive which by its very nature is to hit first. BTW They’ve never been in Israeli territory

      7. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody. / “Unless somebody deserved it.”
      The Palestinians deserved to have their territory partitioned? Their territory occupied for 65 years, illegally acquired, illegally annexed, illegally settled?

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