During Operation Brother’s Keeper, IDF soldiers invaded thousands of houses in the West Bank, on the pretext of looking for the kidnapped teenagers. These raids allow us to get a quick picture of 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, prevent its denizens from traveling abroad, and carry out “searches” in random apartments, without the need to show the residents 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 22nd, 2014. Around 02:30 AM, about a dozen soldiers knocked on her door, entering without explanation, and as she noted, without showing her any warrant. The soldiers found nothing, as there was nothing to be found; but for an hour they wreaked havoc in Khater’s house. Aside from her, the house was home to her pensioner husband and their eight sons.
The soldiers were not satisfied with ripping off the covering of the sofas and spreading out their contents, nor with the breaking of a closet door (one wonders what the hell the purpose of that was, aside from sadistic enjoyment): they did what the army will not speak of, and it seems they looted the house. At first, the soldiers stole an expensive wrist watch, worth some 700 NIS (some 200 USD). 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 NIS (some 4,400 USD) and 1,700 Jordanian dinars (about 2,400 USD).
Even if this had been a legal confiscation, and as the soldiers did not leave Khater any receipt it wasn’t, Khater has no reasonable way of getting the money back: as we’ve seen, in order to do so she would have to appeal to the Israeli HCJ. But as she didn’t receive any written confirmation, this wasn’t a confiscation. Later on, looking through the house, Khater found out that the soldiers went off with her purse, containing 400 NIS. Looting, we’ll remind you, is a war crime, and while the Israeli military law does not recognize war crimes, it does punish looting 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. It was several soldiers who looted them; they were commanded by an officer who either did not know what took place, 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 has command responsibility 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 excusing away everything done by IDF soldiers, up to and including the killing of children. The only things they can’t explain away yet are intentional attacks on animals and 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 grown very good at not challenging the Israeli way of thinking, simply don’t speak about it.
So if you still have any expectations of war ethics from the IDF, promote this post. Because the mainstream media will not mention this case of looting – or the other cases we will document.