The Isolated Incident blog tried to penetrate through the walls of denials shielding Israelis from what we do in the West Bank. It’s time for a summary and a goodbye
This post is the last one to be written under the auspices of Isolated Incident, Yesh Din’s blog, which began in February 2013. Its goal, then as now, was to put a spotlight on the daily, minor injustices of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and bring Israelis’ attention – the ones who maintain this program of injustice both through their military services and the taxes they pay – to what is being done in their name.
Naturally, we did expose some of the greater injustices: the killing of Bassam Abu Rahma, for instance, and the stubborn refusal of the IDF to investigate his death; the killing of Musab Badwan Akhsak Dana, who was killed by an Israeli security officer, about which the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division (MPCID) following a languid investigation, knew less of then when the investigation began; the great injustice in the investigation of the death of Yussuf Fahri Mussa Ahleil, a 16-year-old who was shot, likely by Israeli civilians, as he went to help his father in the field (the details of his death will likely forever remain unknown, since the prosecution only bothered to appoint an attorney to the case some 16 months after the case reached it).
And even though killing of Palestinians by Israeli civilians or security personnel are actually more common than the public thinks, Isolated Incident dealt mostly with the grinding, despairing, daily routine of the occupation.
We spoke about the IDF’s unofficial orders, such as the “livnat shibush” procedure, which was used to deliberately disrupt — through fear —Palestinians’ lives, so they won’t dare to raise their head. We described how such a procedure feels, when a gas canister suddenly falls into your house for no reason. A more accurate name for such actions is collective punishment, a policy Israel adheres to in the occupied territories.
We also spoke of the institutional negligence of the military prosecution and MPCID, and the way in which the ticking clock of a soldier’s discharge serves as a way to block investigation and indictment of suspects. We documented the hair-raising incident of a police investigator who decides not to bother and find out whether the attempted kidnapping of a five-year-old boy has been caught on video. Time and again, we pointed the finger at the Israeli police’s no-investigation policy, as well as at the military prosecution and MPCID, all of which create a situation in which Israeli ideological felons act out of the feeling of impunity. We also warned that even the Nationalist Crime Dept. does its best, its best isn’t enough.
Over the years I noticed, following reactions to the posts, that there are two sorts of crimes committed by Israelis – uniformed or not – that the general public, regardless of its position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, found hard to forgive: harming animals and looting. These are the two cases that the average Israeli finds hard to explain away. He can excuse the shooting of a child, but he would be hard-pressed to excuse, even to himself, harming an animal. The crime of looting, as I see it, has on the other hand suffered a devaluation in the public eyes. Following the myriad of looting cases during Operations Brother’s Keeper and Protective Edge in 2014, it has become less infuriating. Looting still bothers the IDF: most of the indictments against soldiers that were the result of complaints from Palestinians deal with looting and corruption – while most of the complaints deal with violence. The public, however, is less interested: looting is no longer scandalous.
Time and again, we described cases of ideological crimes against the Palestinian agricultural community. These are the most common cases of violence against Palestinians: damaging crops and trees. The purpose of this violence is simple: to cause the Palestinians living next on land near settlements (which the settlements want to take) to despair; make it clear to them there is no point in plowing a field or planting a tree, since a malicious hand can always set the field ablaze or cut the tree down. The Israeli police systematically fails to investigate such cases, even when it has all the necessary evidence at its disposal (Hebrew).
And above it all, flies the spirit of command: the one that allows the construction of outposts, the one that avoids removing them, the one that provides insulting excuses to the courts, the one that refrains from investigation even when the felons lie to the courts. Isolated Incident did not focus on the felons themselves, out of the belief that “it is not the mouse that steals, it is the mouse’s lair.” The crimes themselves are to be expected, and without the behavior of their partners in the authorities, the systemic robbery of Palestinian land could not have continued. The government’s cooperation, by action or inaction, with the ongoing theft of Palestinian land and with their dispossession as well as the attacks on them, is what turns the Israeli occupation from an act of settlers (as many would like to think) to an act of the Israeli state.
Four years after the creation of the blog, and about a month before we note the jubilee of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank, it is hard to return to the optimism of “we shall overcome”: it is hard to say, while a third generation of Palestinians is born into occupation and a second generation of Israelis into its suppression, that our march will thunder. Hard, yet inescapable: because we are human, Israelis and Palestinians, and we insist on believing that Israel can be better; and that making it better is in our hands.
And so, even though this blog had ended its service, Yesh Din will keep presenting to the Israeli public the injustices and violations of human rights taking place, in its name, somewhere beyond the Green Line.
In our hands, did we say? Most of it is in yours. We can keep interacting with the authorities and present you with the information. But the essential action, the changing of things as they are, must come from you and us both.
And dawn shall spread its light on our day.