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When a police officer is actually a soldier

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Sunday morning, an 18-year-old Palestinian man stabbed a soldier in what is officially called “Border Police” in English at the Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City in occupied East Jerusalem, critically injuring him. The Border Police soldier then shot the Palestinian man. Both are in critical condition, and the soldier has regained consciousness after surgery.

Commonly referred to in Hebrew as “Magav,” Border Police does not function as a civilian police force. Magav operates throughout the West Bank as well as Israel, taking part in repressive military operations and extrajudicial assassinations. They work alongside Israeli soldiers and have similar responsibilities in attacks on Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps. Magav originated as a colonial Frontier Corps in the Israeli military, tasked with patrolling Israel’s ever-changing borders, and was eventually put under the command of the Israeli National Police. For anyone who has witnessed these attacks, the difference between military and Magav is semantic.

Immediately, suburban Maryland native and Jewish Agency Spokesman Avi Mayer sent out a series of tweets, each one referring to the Magav soldier a “policeman.”

Avi Mayer

Avi Mayer

As I tweeted, hasbara (the Hebrew word for explaining, but means propaganda in practical terms) peddlers like Avi Mayer use the term “policeman” to conflate the role of Magav with that of a civilian police force, thereby erasing Magav’s as enforcers of Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and Gaza Strip prior to the 2005 disengagement.

Avi Mayer lashed out at my observation, accusing me of being a “Hamas approved propagandist,” as he has repeatedly done because of my journalism in the Gaza Strip.

Mayer accused me of attempting to conflate “soldier” with “policeman” in order to justify the attack.

By erasing the soldier’s role as an enforcer of occupation and casting him as a mere policeman, Mayer’s accusation was a sort of projection.

Mayer’s ploy was roundly criticized. Times of Israel writer Judah Ben Gross tweeted at Avi Mayer, “They wear uniforms, carry M-16s and are considered para-military. It’s not crazy for people to confuse the two.”

Border Police at wall, Bethlehem

Israeli Soldiers and Border Police stand in front of the Wall in Aida Camp. (Photo: Dan Cohen)

Ynetnews, the online version of Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s most widely-read publication, called the Border Policeman a “soldier” as well. Avi Mayer did not publicly accuse Ynetnews of being Hamas-approved propagandists.

Monday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a public statement on the attack, saying, “On behalf of all Israelis, tell this fighter he is a great hero.” I informed Avi Mayer, but he has not responded.

While police forces continue to militarize – in part thanks to tactics and weaponry provided by Israel – police are not considered legitimate military targets under international law.

Israel’s conflation of military and civilian targets

The Israeli military, however, has a policy of treating civilian police force as military targets. The opening airstrikes in Operation Cast Lead in 2008/2009 killed 240 police officers, including many cadets as they took part in graduation ceremonies.

Last summer during Operation Protective Edge, Israel bombed the home of Gaza police chief Tayseer Al-Batsh, killing 18 and injuring 45, most of whom were family members. Numerous other police buildings were bombed as well.

Dan Cohen

Dan Cohen is an independent journalist and filmmaker based in Palestine. He tweets at @dancohen3000.

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28 Responses

  1. a blah chick on June 23, 2015, 10:42 am

    I don’t know why Mayer bothered, since he doesn’t believe Palestinians have a right to defend themselves under any circumstances.

    He’s another one of those clueless, cowardly Zionists who would piss their pants if they had to confront a real member of the resistance.

  2. just on June 23, 2015, 10:47 am

    I followed this interchange between you and Avi Mayer.

    I’m glad that others are criticizing him. Those “border police” are military, and anyone who says otherwise is being deceitful.

    “Photo-journalists shot by Israeli border police”

    “Video: Israeli border police brutally beat Palestinian youth (Update)” – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/07/israeli-brutally-palestinian#sthash.pM8FXd2t.dpuf

    (only a teensy sampling, of course)

    “Avi Mayer did not take kindly to my observation, accusing me of being a “Hamas approved propagandist,” as he has repeatedly done because of my journalism in the Gaza Strip.”

    And you are a most amazing, talented, and honest journalist.

    Thanks, Dan. This is a great article.

  3. Citizen on June 23, 2015, 11:53 am

    USA is trying to copy this model.

  4. Refaat on June 23, 2015, 1:57 pm

    in the first intifada in Gaza, this “police” would arrest and beat the hell out of kids. They were vicious.

  5. peterfeld on June 23, 2015, 5:11 pm

    It was the Magavik Ben Deri who murdered the two Palestinian teens in Beituniya last year, setting off the cycle of violence that led to the murder of the 3 settler teens, Israel’s West Bank pogroms, the AbuKhdeir murder and the Gaza bloodbath. http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Border-policeman-indicted-for-manslaughter-of-Palestinian-teen-named-as-Ben-Deri-384587

  6. just on June 23, 2015, 5:37 pm

    Thanks, Peter. From a May 14, 2015 article

    “Will Israelis filmed killing Palestinian teens on Nakba Day get away with murder?

    … Deri, the Israeli Border Police officer arrested in connection with Nuwara’s killing, is under house arrest, awaiting trial on a charge of manslaughter. The fact that Deri has been charged at all is a token, yet positive, development given the systemic impunity.”

    https://electronicintifada.net/content/will-israelis-filmed-killing-palestinian-teens-nakba-day-get-away-murder/14520

    Nothing ‘positive’ about it, imho. He’s on “house arrest”, charged with “manslaughter”! It was murder. Justice delayed is justice denied, etc.

    • a blah chick on June 23, 2015, 6:37 pm

      Israel cannot afford to punish all of its thugs in green when they are doing the dirty business of empire. But sometimes it is necessary to throw someone under the bus in order to give the “impression” that there is something called a justice system or standards for IDF behavior. But the penalties are irregularly and inconsistently dispensed which is very frustrating for your average IDF or Border Policemen thug. One day you are excused for shooting a ten year old in the back but the next week you are under investigation for punching a Danish bicyclist with your rifle butt.

      And this farce will continue until the whole rotten regime collapses.

  7. wondering jew on June 23, 2015, 10:35 pm

    “patrolling Israel’s ever changing borders”. Yes, we get the point. More accurate: “patrolling Israel’s undeclared borders”.

    • oldgeezer on June 24, 2015, 12:08 am

      @yonah

      “More accurate: “patrolling Israel’s undeclared borders”. – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/06/officer-actually-soldier#comment-148356

      No more accurate is Israels ever changing borders due to theft of others land.

      You know full well Israel declared it’s borders and the best you can offer is a straight out lie.

    • talknic on June 24, 2015, 12:31 am

      @ yonah fredman “patrolling Israel’s ever changing borders”. Yes, we get the point. More accurate: “patrolling Israel’s undeclared borders””

      Neither is correct. Israel declared its borders and was subsequently recognized within them. You’ve been shown indisputable evidence of the fact many times.

      Israel has never legally acquired any further territory by any legal agreement or mechanism.

      You’re a blatant and very likely a paid propagandist.

      • Mooser on June 24, 2015, 12:59 pm

        “You’re a blatant and very likely a paid propagandist.”

        “Talknic” I tell you this very sincerely: If I was any kind of Zionist, any kind, from liberal to furthest right, I would pry open Blue Boxes with my teeth to get money to pay Yonah (and Gawtt help us, “Jon s”) to shut up!

      • CigarGod on June 24, 2015, 1:34 pm

        On the other hand…
        When I was a hunting man…I used to take my .270 out to a particularly infested ground squirrel pasture (I have lots of ranching justifications if someone wants them)…and pick them off when they poked up their head, or ran from hole to hole. Ya’ gotta do this freehand if you wanna hang with the world cup guys. When the squirrels stopped runnin’, we were tuned up.

        So, we sorta need the ground squirrels around here.

        I know this is an awful post for suburban folks, but its what Ive got right now.

      • talknic on June 25, 2015, 5:02 am

        @ Mooser ” I would pry open Blue Boxes with my teeth to get money to pay Yonah (and Gawtt help us, “Jon s”) to shut up!”

        Indeed. However, repeating the lie is standard operating procedure, no matter how many times the lie is disproved. Ignore and lie again. The more something is repeated on the internet the more likely it is to appear at the top of search results

    • Bumblebye on June 24, 2015, 5:19 am

      More accurate still: “patrolling Israel’s ever enlarging stolen lands”.

      I was very p*****d off having to listen to israel’s top cop Mickey Rosenfeld saying “terrorist, terrorist, terrorist” all over bbc news bulletins.

  8. wondering jew on June 24, 2015, 2:08 am

    Avi Mayer is wrong to make a distinction between police and soldiers in this instance certainly. And Dan Cohen is right to object to the distinction. In regards to the labels imposed by the arguers, in fact Avi Mayer is a practitioner of hasbara. And Dan Cohen is a “Hamas approved propagandist.”

    • CigarGod on June 24, 2015, 10:19 am

      Right on, Dan.
      I love it when someone hits these little weasels right in their tender bits.

    • CigarGod on June 24, 2015, 10:25 am

      Avi is a practitioner, not a propagandist?
      And how about you, dude?
      If Hamas were even to know of your existence…do you not think they would approve of your designation as a hasbarachik?
      Definitions are important.

  9. talknic on June 24, 2015, 3:07 am

    @ yonah fredman “Avi Mayer is wrong to make a distinction between police and soldiers in this instance certainly. And Dan Cohen is right to object to the distinction.”

    Irrelevant. Any armed Israeli in non-Israeli territory under Israeli occupation is a valid military target. The areas in red in this animation are NOT nor have they ever been legally acquired by Israel thru any legal agreement. In fact on the 22nd May 1948 the Israeli Government itself admitted to the UNSC the territories were “outside the State of Israel” … “in Palestine”

    ” Dan Cohen is a “Hamas approved propagandist.”

    Evidence please…. thx … I’ll wait

    • wondering jew on June 24, 2015, 9:48 am

      talknic- See this link: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/06/brigades-prepares-israeli Dan Cohen’s article was clearly propaganda. Provide an alternate description for that article and its photographs. He is allowed into Hamas territory and unless you feel that Hamas does not know about his presence in Gaza, he is Hamas approved.

      On what basis should I continue to communicate with you, when you make false accusations against me. I am not paid for the “service” I provide. If this assertion is insufficient for you, on what basis should I communicate with you?

      • talknic on June 24, 2015, 11:44 am

        @ yonah fredman

        ” Dan Cohen’s article was clearly propaganda.”

        Propaganda is false information and attempts to deceive. Please point out the propaganda …. thx

        ” Provide an alternate description for that article and its photographs. “

        Reporting

        “He is allowed into Hamas territory and unless you feel that Hamas does not know about his presence in Gaza, he is Hamas approved.”

        Doesn’t mean he’s a propagandist. In fact it’s Israel, the Occupying Power who controls who can go into or leave Occupied Territory

        “On what basis should I continue to communicate with you, when you make false accusations against me ….. I am not paid for the “service” I provide. “

        You make an idiot of yourself here day and day out spouting nonsense for free? WOW!

        I suggest you try communicating truthfully

      • CigarGod on June 24, 2015, 11:52 am

        I think we are being unrealistic to expect a weasel, not to argue like one.
        It’s just his nature.

      • diasp0ra on June 24, 2015, 12:53 pm

        With that logic any journalist allowed through Israeli checkpoints is an Israel propagandist, because that means that they allowed them in and approve of them.

      • Mooser on June 24, 2015, 1:07 pm

        ” If this assertion is insufficient for you, on what basis should I communicate with you?”

        Well, you could try telling the truth. That might be a start. You could start by conceding there is such a thing. Not, Yonah, one Orthodox Jewish truth and something else for everybody else. That won’t do.

      • amigo on June 24, 2015, 4:21 pm

        “On what basis should I continue to communicate with you, when you make false accusations against me. I am not paid for the “service” I provide. ” Yonah

        Truth is Yonah.The service you provide is a disservice to Israel.You certainly should not be paid.

        But Hey, don,t let me stop you..

  10. diasp0ra on June 24, 2015, 9:34 am

    Their role is practically the same when it comes to practice. These troops are vicious and armed to the teeth.

  11. CigarGod on June 24, 2015, 10:08 am

    Right on, Dan.
    I love it when someone hits these little weasels right in their tender bits.

  12. Mivasair on June 24, 2015, 12:36 pm

    Dan Cohen is right. They’re not even called police in Hebrew. “Magav” is short for “Mishmeret ha-Gvul” — which means “Border Guard” or “Border Patrol”, not “Border Police”.

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