During Operation Brother’s Keeper, the IDF carried out a large number of raids on Palestinian houses, boasting afterwards that it seized more than a million NIS. However, in some cases the seizure looked more like looting – and, as in the case before us, seizure was accompanied by looting.
What’s the difference? It’s quite simple. Seizure is an official act. The army raids a house, takes property for some cause, and leaves documentation. The person whose property was seized has an address to turn to. It will help him about as much as sacrificing a chicken to the nether gods, since the scandalous Amendment nr. 36 to the Order Regarding Security Provisions rules that military courts in the West Bank do not have the jurisdiction to deal with it; but he could send an official document, and receive an empty reply, and the legalistic façade will remain in place. He will have the right to appeal to the HCJ, which will require hiring an Israeli lawyer and costs which will likely amount to more than the damage he suffered.
Looting is something completely different. Looting is the taking of property without proper authority and without a military need, and of course without the requisite legal documentation, by a soldier or group of soldiers. Looting is a war crime, and recently even the Military Prosecution warned the IDF soldiers that it is so; it is also a felony under the Military Justice Law. The problem is that a seizure can easily serve as cover for an act of looting.
At the end of June, a large group of soldiers burst into the house of the family of Ziadah in the village of Madameh, and carried out a violent search, while causing damage to the house and striking fear and alarm among the children. The goal of the raid, as far as we understand it, was the confiscation of a large sum of money which belongs to the family’s father, for reasons which were not made clear to the residents.
Was this a seizure? No. Seizure may have been the goal, but the actual result was looting: the soldiers did not leave the owner a receipt or any other document which would allow the IDF to pretend any process of returning the property may be held, or even a document showing this is seizure and not looting. The money captured, tens of thousands of NIS, simply vanished.
OK, you’d say, this is uncalled for. The empty and pointless procedure – empty, again, because according to Amendment 36 a Palestinian cannot actually appeal the seizure, except through appealing to the HCJ, which may cost him more than the property seized – was not carried out. There was no official proof that this was an official action. OK, you’d say, this is uncalled for. Next time, we’ll make certain we’d go through the empty gestures properly.
However, the looting which was supposed to be a seizure was accompanied by bona fide looting. One of the witnesses described how one of the soldiers took a piggy bank belonging to one of the children, “round, blue, made of plastic,” and smashed it. The pitiful sum saved by the child – for a bike, perhaps, or a football, or any of those things children save money for – was taken by the soldier, who put it in his pocket.
Here, it would be rather hard to say this money was seized and not looted. This is looting cloaking itself in an official seizure, muddying the water until you can’t tell the two apart; a small and dirty theft, stealing from a child, wrapping itself in the IDF uniform.
It is those who have some expectation of morality of the IDF who ought to be the first to demand an investigation, which should ferret out the thief and expose his infamy. And the great silence which will follow this post will testify to just how empty the rhetoric of the “most moral army in the world” is.
In the beginning of July, we sent a notice, on behalf of the family, to the Operational Affairs Prosecution regarding suspicion of looting by IDF soldiers; one should hope – and demand – that they investigate the incident quickly and efficiently, and lead to the indictment of the looter.