With whom did the Shomron Regiment Commander celebrate Israeli Independence Day? And what does it say about the IDF’s attitude towards the population it is supposed to protect?
As Haim Levinson showed in his article in Haaretz (Hebrew), on Independence Day, the Samaria Central Brigade was to hold an event together with the Shomron Regional Council; the event was to be held in the base of the Central Brigade and was sponsored, inter alia, by “Amana.” Among the festivities the crowd was invited to (there’s a magician!), there was also the inauguration of a new neighborhood in the settlement of Har Bracha. The IDF told Haaretz that: “the event of inaugurating the new neighbourhood is under the authority of the Shomron Regional Council and the IDF is not a partner in it.”
The innocent reader may think that this non-denial means that IDF officers will not participate in the inauguration. Yours truly tried to check with the IDF Spokesman whether or not the IDF would participate, and received the usual we’ll-get-back-to-you-as-soon-as-hell-freezes-over. Speaking with the Shomron youth activity center, however, I was explicitly told that the brigade commander, as well as other senior officers, was expected to be there. This wouldn’t be the first time: in July 2013, the commander of the Binyamin Central Brigade participated, in the 10th anniversary celebrations of the illegal outpost (!) of Qida.
This begs several observations. To begin with, it’s sad, that while Israel is angry with the Secretary of State for saying that he fears Israel is slipping towards Apartheid, the IDF breaks ranks so blatantly. After all, nobody thinks the brigade commander might participate, say, in the celebrations of a new neighborhood in the up-and-coming Palestinian city of Rawabi. His presence in the inauguration of a neighborhood in a settlement, however, is a given.
Another example: the idea that the Shomron brigade commander would participate in a Palestinian celebration is a wild fantasy. A writer coming up with a plot in which the Shomron Brigade holds Eid Al Fitr ceremonies, with the traditional slaughtering of lambs taking place in its parking lot under the loving gaze of its chaplain, would be politely asked by fantasy magazines to re-check the dosage of his medication. What would happen if the Palestinian local residents would try to join the Independence Day celebrations is easy to imagine.
It’s clear, therefore, that the IDF treats the two populations under its control in a radically different manner. One is a population which it defends, even when it behaves in extreme ways; a population whose values it shares. The other is an occupied population. Ironically, however, the population the IDF considers as the one it is supposed to occupy, is the one which is defined, according to international law as the protected population; the one which it defends, however, is defined as a population that is being illegally transferred to an occupied territory. And yes, it is occupied: the IDF controls it on the basis of belligerent occupation, and dozens of HCJ rulings consider it to be an occupied territory.
And here is the crux of the problem. The IDF is supposed to protect the Palestinians – but it teaches its soldiers that the Palestinians are the enemy, which to a significant extent they are; they’re an occupied population. The status of a “normal” occupation may have been reasonable, were it short – but it isn’t short and it is not normal. The territories now hold hundreds of thousands of Israeli civilians, transferred there contrary to international law and treaties signed by Israel.
You cannot expect, given this situation, that a soldier may be able to enforce the law on settlers, i.e. those who are on “his side”, when they are surrounded by “them.” And indeed, the security forces – the IDF, police and Border Police, who operate in the West Bank because the IDF empowered them to do so – fail at this task time after time. It’s hard to blame them: the mission is implausible, verging on the impossible. You cannot be both an occupying power and the defender of an invading population, without creating an apartheid scenario on the one hand and general outlawry on the other.
In less that a month, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank will be 47 years old. Israelis tend to excuse it on security grounds. Nonsense. Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany were occupied for security reasons; and though both were of the worst regimes in history, they both regained their independence within seven years. The settlements are the reason for the occupation. Their dispersal – Ariel is a perhaps the best example – was intended to make certain the occupation could not be brought to an end. As such, they are a stunning success. The joint celebrations of the IDF and the settlement establishment are logical; they are full partners in the same joint venture, “the settlement movement,” which makes certain that with each Independence Day, Israel grows a bit further from independence, sliding more into the enslavement of another people – and enslavement always consumes the enslaver.
It is time for freedom and independence. May the joint celebration of the Shomron Brigade and the Shomron Regional Council be the last; may we see in three years – the jubilee year of the occupation, the year of freeing the slaves – the Palestinians celebrating there alone. May we then be able to once more read the ancient passage: “And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.”