In Corrie ruling, court calls nonviolent activism ‘practically violent’

An Israeli judge claims activists who oppose house demolitions – and not those who demolish them – are the perpetrators of violence.

The Israeli court system was, for a long time, the most successful fig leaf of the only Jewish state in the Middle East.  Now it has gone diving into the Hasbara morass. After “diplomatic terrorism” (opposing Israel in the world, a phrase favored by our foreign minister) and “economic terrorism” (boycotting settlements) we now have the District Court of Haifa blaming (Hebrew) the ISM organization of being  “practically violent,” even though the court admits it had nothing to do with violence.

The court wrote this in the decision on the civil suit filed by the family of Rachel Corrie, who was run over and killed by an Israeli D-9 bulldozer in 2003 in Rafah. Corrie was trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian house by the IDF for reasons few can remember anymore.

The court claimed the iDF was engaged in hisuf, a technocratic Hebrew term meaning literally “an act of exposure,” which in practical terms means the destruction of property, most often agricultural property but sometimes houses as well. Often, hisuf – which IDF gunmen often claimed was intended to prevent ambushes – had little to do with military necessity and everything to do with state terrorism: terrorizing the Palestinian residents out of supporting the uprising against Israel.  B’Tselem noted at the time that under the guise of hisuf, the IDF gunmen often destroyed fields of tomatoes and zucchini, often causing irreparable damage. B’Tselem called (Hebrew) this policy a policy of collective punishment.

The chief of the Civil Administration in the West Bank at the time, Brig. General Dov Tsdaka, said at the time (Hebrew):

…in Gaza, I think, they did cross the limit. After the events in Eley Sinai and Dugit, they carried out a very massive hisuf. They uprooted hundreds of dunams of strawberries, plantations and hothouses. I think this is unfair…. It will cause hatred and inflammatory [behavior?], and will draw more people into the circle of hostility. This is simply unwise. We have some instances of this in the RJS (Region of Judea and Samaria, IDF parlance for the West Bank – YZG].  Sometimes I approve a certain amount of hisuf, but when I visit the place I find our forces acted hyperactively […] Have we exaggerated in some places? With my hand on my heart I tell you – yes, certainly, certainly. You allow them to take down 30 trees, and the next day you come and see they took down 60. The soldier or the company commander in place gets carried away. There were such cases, and we cannot ignore them. We are responsible for this. We hold investigations, people are brought to justice.

Really? Well, Tsdaka smilingly admitted that no one was actually prosecuted, but “they were given a very clear nu nu nu,” a term often used to tell children they’ve crossed a line.

So that’s what hisuf looks like: collective punishment acting against the interests of people carrying it out, who are themselves vandals bent on destruction who know the military system won’t punish them, at most will nu nu nu  at them.

A year after the death of Rachel Corrie, even some Israelis were shocked by the mass demolition of houses in Rafah, and Justice Minister Yossef Lapid said that the picture of an old refugee rummaging through the ruins of her house, looking for her medicine, reminded him of his grandmother, who lived in A Dark Period™, as Israelis are wont to call the Nazi regime when they don’t want to just name it. This made then-Chief of Staff Yaalon very wroth. And yet, a year later, a committee appointed by the same Yaalon told us what anyone can figure out quite easily (Hebrew): that collective demolition of houses is ineffective, actually counterproductive, when it comes to preventing terrorism. This is just the practical side of things, of course; there is no point in discussing morality with an army proud of being more moral than Hamas.

And then, the verdict of Judge Oded Gershon turns us back ten years, as if by a time machine. As if none of the above happened, Gershon ruled that ISM activists served as “human shields”  -a common claim, never substantiated, of the Hasbara system – and gave “financial, logistical and moral aid to the Palestinians, including terrorists and their family members, and disrupted the demolition or the sealing of the houses of terrorists who carried out suicide attacks, killing many.”  All of which, said the judge, shows that “the organization is misusing the language of human rights and morality, in order to obfuscate the severity of its actions, which are practically violent.” Wow. I was unaware the judiciary joined the Hasbara project.

Let’s begin by saying it takes a lot of chutzpah for an Israeli judge to preach about “human shields” when the Israeli High Court of Justice took more than three years to forbid the IDF from using Palestinians as human shields – and, alas, we have no reason to believe the army actually obeyed that order. Further, in the mirror world of Judge Gershon, if you are trying to prevent the demolition or sealing of houses – which even the IDF now concedes is harmful, and which constitutes illegal collective punishment – that is, if you are opposed to the punishing of people who committed no offence themselves, then your very objection to a crime against international law is “practically violent.” Your actions, not those of the people kicking people out of their homes for no crimes of their own, with limited time to get their belongings, and then destroying those homes. Your actions, not those of the people who made being the relative of an enemy – all too often, a dead enemy – a punishable offense, are “practically violent.” Needless to say, all of this has absolutely nothing to do with Rachel Corrie’s death. She was not defending the house of a suicide bomber. The Israelis killed in Rafah were anything but civilians. But this shows us where Judge Gershon comes from.

The judge, natch, accepted the army’s position that the soldier who ran Corrie over did not see her – and this despite the fact that the Criminal Investigations Division (CID) didn’t complete its interrogation. It was stopped, or rather disrupted, when General Doron Almog – who, years later, would flee London for fear he would be prosecuted for his actions in Rafah’s dirty war – ordered the driver to shut up and say nothing (Hebrew). This little incident, naturally, has slipped from Almog’s memory – but not from those of the CID investigators, or their memos. The U.S. administration was also not impressed with the IDF investigation into the death of an American citizen.

So if the CID investigation was disrupted, and the military investigation only relies on the testimony of the driver – who, naturally, wants to keep his distance from Corrie’s death – which contradicts the testimony of others, is there any surprise that the Israeli courts, which routinely serve as the rubber stump of the Israeli security system, prefer throwing blame at the ISM? Maybe no one will notice that it’s not the ISM that was on trial, but the IDF; that it was not the ISM that killed Corrie, but the IDF; and that the judge follows Almog’s example, and whitewashes the investigation of Corrie’s death.

And prefers transferring the blame from those who shot and ran over to those who were shot and run over.