This video recorded in Hebron (al-Khalīl) last Sunday by Youth Against Settlements (YAS) has set off a firestorm of protest by soldiers in the Israeli military. The video, shows a soldier brandishing and aiming a loaded weapon at a boy who was clearly was not a danger to him.
Reportedly the anonymous soldier, dubbed “David” by social media, had been charged with aiming his gun at the child however this was not the case. Prosecution of this nature would be extremely rare in Israel. Generally the killing, beating and torture of Palestinian youths goes unpunished, time and again. Apparently, the mistaken assumption the soldier had been disciplined for the incident arose, Army Radio reported, because another soldier had been recently sentenced to jail for striking a commanding officer, leading to a misconception that “David” had been jailed.
Nonetheless, in the wake of the Hebron video, which went viral, soldiers began “demanding that the state of Israel give them the opportunity to appropriately deal with the challenges they encounter in the field.”
On Wednesday the Alternative Information Center (AIC) reported that within two days of establishing a Facebook page dedicated to supporting this soldier, the Facebook page got 39,000 likes and JTA reports today it is up to 80,000. In addition soldiers by the thousands (12,000 as of yesterday) have been sending photos to an Israeli online media site “0404” supporting the soldier.
According to 0404, in less than 24 hours the protest became the largest military protest in Israel’s history (translated from Hebrew: “requiring a change in the policy of engagement and response throughout Judea and Samaria”) and AIC, citing 0404’s editor , reported:
They are protesting that their hands are tied and they have no ability to appropriately respond to violent acts by Palestinians. They emphasise that they are not against the Israeli army
So what happened last Sunday April 27th? The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) reported that four Palestinian boys were detained at a checkpoint in Hebron.
Three YAS (Youth Against Settlements) members arrived at the scene, and tried to document the incident. While filming they were harassed by several settlers from nearby illegal settlements, this led to the YAS volunteers being detained by Israeli forces for over one hour.
Three of the boys were allowed to leave, while one was held back. One of the Israeli soldiers loaded his weapon with live ammunition and threatened to shoot the 15-year old Palestinian, who still didn’t know why he was being held.
The arrest was very violent, as the Palestinian boy was pushed and kicked several times.
YAS activists called the DCO (District Coordination Officer- legal collaboration between Israeli and Palestinian authorities) to inform them about the arrest of a young teenager.
The Israeli Police then contacted the DCO, and tried to misinform them about the situation – denying that the arrest was happening.
The Palestinian boy was then taken to a nearby Police Station, still not knowing the circumstances of his arrest. His current situation is unknown.
AIC reported that the soldier, joined by others, beat the Palestinian child near Shuhada Street (the central street in Hebron that is closed to Palestinians) before taking him to an unknown location.
Unsurprisingly, right-wing Israeli leaders are justifying the actions of a soldier, including Naftali Bennet. JTA reports:
“I would have acted like David of the Nahal [infantry brigade],” Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, a former commando fighter in the Israeli Defense Forces and leader of the rightist Jewish home party, was quoted as telling Army Radio Thursday. The situation in the West Bank “is no ballet recital,” he added.
The soldiers’ hands do not seem very “tied” to me. What more is it that these protesting soldiers want? Authorization to use deadly force? Or a big red button? Soldiers patrolling Gaza had such a button for remote killings, as Yael Lotan states below in testimony released by Breaking the Silence last year.
When soldiers are authorized to lay in wait under bushes and ambush children foraging for plants, in camouflaged blackface and haul kids off to nearby settlements to beat the crap out of them which has been documented time and again, with no repercussions, whose hands are really tied here?
I saw the big red button given to lookouts there. A technological develop where they can open it, lift the cover, press a button and kill someone several kilometers away. I’m ashamed to say that as an 18-year old girl I wanted to have that button too.
I really wanted…I mean, I have tears in my eyes for even thinking it, but…I was an 18-year old wanting to have that gadget too. Dying to have something to work with, to have more action and you don’t even think what you’re about to do is kill people on the other side who didn’t do anything and who are trying to survive. I just remember the big red button…and I really wanted to have it too, I really did because …to improve the army.
Soldiers protest photos sent in to 0404:
(H/t commenter oldcomp for all English/Hebrew translations in photo captions )