While you were sleeping: The systematic terrorization of Burin

Israeli civilians terrorize the village of Burin; as usual, they are aided by the strongest army in the Middle East.

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

File photo of masked Jewish settlers using slingshots to throw stones at Palestinians (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)
File photo of masked Jewish settlers using slingshots to throw stones at Palestinians (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)
To paraphrase Tolstoy, every village in the West Bank is miserable in its own way. The curse of Burin, in the Nablus region, is that it neighbors two particularly troublesome settlements, Har Bracha and Yitzhar. Attacks by Israeli civilians coming from these settlements against the residents of Burin are almost daily occurrences; in one recent week, no fewer than four such attacks were documented. (More about Burin, see here).

The problem with these attacks has less to do with the Israeli civilians and more with the fact that they are generally accompanied by IDF soldiers who protect them even when they carry out pogroms. There’s a standard procedure for these attacks: the Israeli civilians descend on the village in order to attack it, sometimes attacking the school or some of the outlying, isolated buildings; the villagers organize themselves for self defense and throw stones at the invaders; and then, the strongest army in the Middle East rushes in and fires tear gas canisters, stun grenades and from time to time rubber-coated, or even live bullets, at the villagers. All of which happens not while the Palestinian residents attack or raid a settlement, but when they are trying to defend themselves and their homes.

And the aid the IDF supplies to the marauders does not end here. Last November, a pogrom broke out according to the outline above. A large group of Israeli civilians came down from one of the hilltop outposts toward the village. The residents of Burin, who already know this routine by rote, went out to push them off their property. Shortly afterwards, IDF troops arrived on the scene, and instead of evacuating the invaders and defending the residents, they outdid themselves. This time they did not limit themselves to shooting tear gas canisters and throwing stun grenades at the Palestinians who tried to defend their village; they threw stun grenades into the house of a child, H, age 14, and threatened his mother, M., that if she didn’t open the door, they’d keep throwing them into the house.

In case you are fortunate enough to have never experienced a stun grenade explosion, I’ll just say it is an unpleasant experience, to say the least. Usually, the army uses them against demonstrators in open spaces; their effects there – a strong explosion which deafens and blinds – is limited. However, originally this weapon was intended to be used in a confined space, in order to neutralize armed targets within a structure. In a confined space, where the shock waves are much stronger, this is an actual weapon, capable of causing actual damage. This is what IDF troops fired into a civilian house that seemingly posed no danger to them.

Following the threat, M. opened the door and the soldiers stormed in. They found her son, H, who was on the roof during the incident, and demanded that he stay where he was and not move. They kept him on the roof for an hour and demanded that he identify stone-throwers from among the villagers below.

Then came the procedure everyone who has ever served in the occupied territories knows: the hands of H – a reminder: he’s a 14-year-old child – were handcuffed with tight, rigid plastic cuffs behind his back; his eyes were blindfolded with gun-cleaning cloth. Were the soldiers in any danger from him? Was he taken to a particularly secret military facility, where scientists whose very existence is denied are developing the weapons of tomorrow? No, he was taken to the police post in Hawara, a place known to all. So why the blindfold? Because the oh-so-strong army, which recently went on a viral campaign telling everyone how strong it is (stronger than coffee!), had to prove itself stronger even than a bound child of 14, and that it can humiliate and terrorize him.

During the ride, according to H, he was beaten by the soldiers. When the jeep he was driven in stopped, he was pushed out to the ground – a bound and blindfolded child, yes? – while the soldiers laughed. Then they gave him water. H was brought before a police interrogator, who demanded he identify stone-throwers. When H said he was incapable of doing so, since they were hooded, the policeman slapped him. He was taken out of the interrogation room and told to sit on the pavement, where the soldiers abused him some more. Then he was put in the jeep again and driven to the Burin Junction. There the soldiers took him out of the vehicle, allowed him to call his father to tell him to pick him up, and drove off. This is how seriously the IDF takes the protection of minors held in its legal custody: abandoning them on a road.

So, in sum: we’ve seen a break-in to a house by threat, the arrest of a minor without an adult present (which Israeli law is strict about), the abuse of a helpless minor, an attempt to make a minor into a police informant against his will and the abandoning of a minor on the road. All of the above is the result of collaboration between the army and Jewish hooligans: the army kidnapped a minor from his house in order to extract information from him, through abuse and violence, which will allow the framing of people who were trying to defend themselves.

Needless to say, the contradictory scenario – the kidnapping of a Jewish child from his home in order to blackmail him into incriminating others, all through the use of violence and throwing stun grenades at his house – is unthinkable. And that’s a good thing. But what can we say about this gap in rights?

If the army were to invest less aggressiveness against 14-year-old Palestinian children, and more effort into preventing pogroms by government-funded Israeli civilians, perhaps it could say of itself that it’s not only strong, but also moral. So far, this has yet to happen. And as long as you prefer not to know what is done in your name, and with your taxes, this is unlikely to change. Just as the army is ultimately responsible for the rampages of the settlers, those who fund and manage the army are responsible for its outbursts.

Written by Yossi Gurvitz in his capacity as a blogger for Yesh Din, Volunteers for Human Rights. A version of this post was first published on Yesh Din’s blog.

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