Palestinians reported numerous incidents of looting by IDF soldiers during Operation Brother’s Keeper in the West Bank. Here’s the first case documented by Yesh Din.
By Yossi Gurvitz for Yesh Din
During Operation Brother’s Keeper, IDF soldiers invaded thousands of houses in the West Bank, under the pretext of looking for the three kidnapped teenagers. These raids give us brief glimpse at the differences between Palestinians living under Israeli control and Israeli citizens.
For instance, were someone to be kidnapped in Petah Tikva, no one would imagine placing the city under curfew, preventing its denizens from traveling abroad or carrying out “searches” in random apartments without the need to show a legal search warrant.
Yet that is precisely what happened to Wasafia Sadeq Othman Salah Khater, a senior citizen living in the village of Aqraba, on June 22. At around 2:30 a.m., about a dozen soldiers knocked on her door, entering without explanation nor a warrant. The soldiers found nothing, as there was nothing to be found; but for an hour they wreaked havoc on Khater’s house. Aside from her, the house was home to her pensioner husband and their eight sons.
The soldiers were not satisfied with simply ripping off the covering of the sofas and spreading out their contents, nor with breaking a closet door: they did what the army will not speak of: they looted the house. At first, the soldiers stole an expensive wrist watch, worth approximately $200. Then, they looted an envelope that Khater held on her body – a very reasonable thing to do, when strangers invade your home – which contained 15,000 shekels (the equivalent of $4,400) and 1,700 Jordanian dinars (about $2,400).
Even if this had been a legal confiscation – and there is no way of telling, since the soldiers didn’t leave any written confirmation – Khater has no reasonable way of getting the money back. In order to do so she would have to appeal to the Israeli High Court of Justice, But since she didn’t receive a confirmation, the incident didn’t count as confiscation. Later on, as she looked through the house, Khater found that the soldiers ran off with her purse, which contained 400 NIS. Looting, it should be remembered, is a war crime. And while the Israeli military law does not recognize war crimes, it does punish looters with up to 10 years imprisonment.
Khater’s husband is a pensioner; she herself is a housewife. The money they have comes from their children. They were looted by several soldiers, who were commanded by an officer who either did not know what occurred – in which case he is unfit for command – or knew and turned a blind eye, in which case he is unfit for command and should spend time in prison with his looting soldiers. Either way, he is responsibile for their actions.
But the chances that he will be prosecuted are practically nil. The rate of indictment of soldiers is near-zero. And after all, this incident took place as the national brain was suffused with blood.
Israelis have grown accustomed to explaining away everything done by IDF soldiers, up to and including the killing of children. The only things they can’t explain are: 1) intentional attacks on animals and, 2) looting. Nobody can claim that looting makes any operational sense; no one can claim it is not a crime (and one of the most serious in the Israeli military law). Therefore, the IDF and the Israeli media, which has become very adept at not challenging the Israeli way of thinking, simply do not speak of it.