Yediot Ahronot published last weekend a good article (translation to English here) in which Oded Shalom and Akiva Novik describe what they saw at the illegal outpost Netzakh Binyamin, which we covered here. At the end of the article, the reporters describe how hooded Israelis attack Palestinians at prayer, but the IDF fires tear gas at the Palestinians. Why? “We don’t fire tear gas at Israelis,” says an IDF officer. Unless, of course, the Israelis are left-wingers in one of the villages of popular resistance, in which case they will be automatically reclassified as Palestinians and treated accordingly.
This is far from the only such case. Last Friday, there was a serious riot at the Western Wall. People I know were spat at; others were stoned by ultra-Orthodox hoodlums. As J. J. Goldberg noted sardonically, a miracle took place at the Western Wall: No one was harmed by the fire of the police, as Jewish people were stoned during prayers. Oh, did that not happen? Opening fire is reserved only for Palestinian stone throwers? A Palestinian-thrown stone, an inherently deadly weapon, is immediately transformed into a form of protest when it is thrown by a Jew? Fancy that.
Just to be clear, I do not support shooting at stone throwers, whatever their religious or ethnic affiliation. But the behavior of the occupation forces pulls the ground from under any attempt to seriously consider them as “law enforcers.”
The basic concept of law enforcement demands fairness and equality. The clearest form of discrimination is discrimination in enforcement, when one population is treated differently than another for committing the same offense. In the occupied territories, this discrimination is built in pretty much since the occupation’s earliest days: They have different laws for the Palestinian residents and the Jewish settlers. These are judged in military court, under edicts whose enactment they had no say in, edicts enacted by the enemy; those are judged in Israeli civil courts, with all the defenses this entails, as well as being able to influence the writing of laws. Normally when taken to court, the Palestinians could claim abuse of process; but the edicts they live under do not recognize this defense.
And now we find that even the treatment of a rioter, during the riot, is distinctly different. A Palestinian throwing stones is exposed to tear gas (sometimes to the consternation of settlers, who complain the gas is swept to the settlement and ruins their Shabbat (Hebrew)), as well as rubber-coated metal bullets, or – in far too many cases – a gas canister shot directly into their chests. A Jew throwing stones will find several breathless soldiers chasing him.
If the stone thrower manages to flee the scene, then if he’s a Palestinian he has to consider the risk of our brave soldiers storming him house at night, even if he is a minor. A Jewish stone thrower is in no such danger, particularly if he is a minor.
This is true even when the stone throwing is particularly dangerous. In December 2011, a well-organized mob of settlers – more than 300 people, who arrived in buses, which someone had to have ordered and paid for – assaulted the base of the Efraim Brigade. Inter alia, the settlers threw a stone at the colonel’s head. The military reporter Carmela Menasheh asked the soon-to-be-retired IDF Spokesman, Brig. General Yoav Mordechai, how the colonel was supposed to act. Mordechai’s answer is worth quoting in full: “I assume, Carmela, you would not expect the colonel to open fire at a Jew he was facing. I’m sure that’s not what you mean.”
That is to say, Mordechai – who is the representative of the IDF in the most literal sense of the word – has no problem with shooting a Palestinian who stones a colonel. He does have a problem with using the same force against a Jew; the very idea shocks him. And that, basically, is what disqualifies the IDF from serving as a police force in the West Bank (setting aside the rest of the problems derived from this, such as the damage to the IDF itself as a fighting force): It cannot be a fair police force. It has internalized the view that its duty is to defend the Jews – even when they are the felons, even when the army itself admits that they are felons. The Palestinians are always, first of all, an enemy; the Jews are always allies, first and foremost.
And that is not the duty of an occupying army. Its duty, as this blog tirelessly reminds, is to defend the local population. This is the duty of an occupying army according both to international law and the rulings of the HCJ. It is a duty the IDF is incapable – and never was capable – of carrying out.