One night in early September, the members of the Kavajeh family in Tarqumiya were woken by IDF troops breaking into their house. According to the despicable custom of the last few years, some of the soldiers wore ski masks; before our apathetic eyes what used to be the premier line of fashion among criminals has become common military attire.
From this moment on, everything went as per the routine – a routine known to every soldier who has ever served in the occupied territories: the soldiers gathered all the family members in one room, not giving them time to dress properly. They then searched the house, found nothing, and as they left, the head of the family, ‘Issa, heard the soldiers say to one another that they had raided the wrong house. Needless to say, the soldiers did not apologize to the family. The soldiers told them not to leave the house while they were still present.
When the family realized the soldiers were gone, they began to estimate the damage. Here the words of ‘Issa are worth quoting: “We began moving around the house and saw the horror.” The contents of the cupboards had been spilled, and the soldiers had thrown bedding, clothes and equipment onto the floor. The kitchen was the real calamity zone: the soldiers made certain to spill the flour on the floor, mix the sugar, the lentils and the salt together, poured the tahini into the kitchen sink, and, finally, broke the eggs.
Now, certainly some IDF spokesperson, whether an official or a self-appointed one, will manage to find a way to explain why there was a pressing military need behind this wanton destruction of food; we’ll probably find a fool who would explain why there was a need to break the eggs – how do you know what they might have hidden in there? And anyway, why don’t you show us what happened before? And do you know what happened in 1929?
But as the family members finished examining the results of the small green storm that passed mistakenly through their home, the real disaster was discovered: the savings of one of the family members, Thahani, had been stolen. These were two gold bracelets and a gold ring. Thahani had saved the money to buy the jewelry from working in a seamstress shop since 1998.
Fifteen years of savings. Fifteen years of painstakingly gathering, day by day, an ounce of meager pay. A slow collection culminating in 65 grams of gold, each one of them worth 60 Jordanian Dinars, each Dinar the equivalent of about $1.7 USD. Fifteen years of savings left Thahani with some $8,005 USD; a bit more than $385 USD a year, or $1.25 USD a day. This was Tahani’s portion of all her labor. Now it lies in the pocket of a soldier. Perhaps he’ll give them to his lover, who will be grateful and not ask where he got such gold bracelets and such a ring; perhaps they’ll end up in a pawnshop. Perhaps, loyal to the value of comradeship, he already split the loot with other troops in his section.
In the morning, the family complained both to the Red Cross and the Israeli police. This was a futile gesture: good luck finding the looter among dozens of troops, some of whom were hooded and all well-versed in covering for one another. But before the MPCID rushes to close the case claiming it couldn’t find a suspect, one more thing must be said.
Looting is a war crime. It is defined as such in the Fourth Geneva Convention. During wartime, armies often harshly punish looting soldiers, if only because looting is bad for military discipline. At best, looting soldiers have to lie to their commander, which opens the door to more lies; at worst, the commander will take a commission off the loot. Armies who don’t punish looting harshly quickly cease to become armies and turn into militias at best, gangs at worse.
Israel, as is well known, does not have laws against war crimes on its books. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t commit them. And as long as the MPCID does not shake itself up and find the thief, and as long as Israel does not compensate Tahani, it allows a war criminal – not a mere thief, but a war criminal – to roam freely. And since we know nothing of him but the colors of the uniform he wore, he besmirches through his act all those who wear them. And if the IDF wants to remove this stain from its uniform – admittedly, they are spotted with quite a few of them – it had better find the guilty party, and throw the book at him. Hard.