Why do Israeli soldiers bully Palestinians?

Amira Hass writes: Why did his commanders send a soldier with a record of violence to bully Palestinians in Hebron? The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit chose to respond to Haaretz’s question with “no comment.” Perhaps that’s because the right answer is: Violence and bullying are what the Israel Defense Forces’ presence in Hebron and the West Bank is really all about. And another right answer: The IDF’s first mission in the West Bank is to ensure the continuation of the settlement enterprise, which means expelling the Palestinians from their land. The violence of the army and the settlers serves this mission. The proof? The hundreds of buildings in Hebron’s Old City that have been emptied of their owners and tenants.

The violent and bullying behavior of David Adamov — the soldier who was videotaped aiming his rifle at a Palestinian teen, setting off a storm in the media, especially the social media — was not exceptional. What was exceptional was that the Israeli public initially believed he was sent to military prison because of his violence toward Palestinians.

By what authority did Adamov and his fellow soldiers detain several Palestinians for two hours at a military checkpoint whose entire purpose is to ensure that members of the Chosen People can march proudly down Shuhada Street and that Palestinians are kept away? This incident predated that of the now-famous video. To this question, too, the IDF Spokesperson declined to respond. In any event, soldiers (and employees of civilian contractors) detain Palestinians freely at every checkpoint and roadblock.

The robbery of the Palestinians’ time by the Israeli authorities – at every level, both military and civilian – is an integral part of the Israeli domination regime.

Why do soldiers bark obscenities at Palestinians? I didn’t ask the IDF Spokesperson this question. Since I first began covering the occupation, nearly a quarter-century ago, I have learned that soldiers must do so in order to overcome the cognitive dissonance in which they operate. After all, 18 and 20-year-olds can think and feel, in short, be responsible for their actions – and here I part ways with the military experts, obviously. Clearly, 18- and 20-year-olds know the Palestinians are human beings just like us. The trash talk and humiliation builds up the dehumanization, until the soldiers are convinced that the Palestinian is different. Commanders don’t want to stop this, because only then can the soldiers fully carry out their mission: to prevent the Palestinian from walking down the street where he lives, to prevent him from living on the street where he and his parents were born, to destroy the livelihoods of many thousands of people.

Humiliation of the Palestinians by every level of the civilian and military apparatus is an inseparable part of building a nation of overlords. [Continue reading…]

The need that Israelis have to dehumanize Palestinians in order to justify their own brutality is, I believe, only one element in the equation. Just as important is each soldier’s struggle to avoid being confronted with his own cowardice.

Nothing poses a greater psychological threat to a heavily armed Israeli soldier than the fearlessness of an unarmed Palestinian. The weapons that are designed to enforce the dominator’s power also underline his weakness. Thus the Israelis need to engage in perpetual acts of provocation in order justify their own fear of Palestinians.

Beneath this rests a flaw in the whole Zionist project: An enterprise that was in part meant to be a demonstration of collective strength has become riddled with fractures revealing collective weakness.

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1 thought on “Why do Israeli soldiers bully Palestinians?

  1. Norman

    When the population from birth is fed the P.R. that any people are different, a threat, as has been done in Israel, it’s easy to see how these problems exist and occur. As in any political system, the control of the mind and what it’s fed, determines the daily performance. If hatred is fed, then hatred is what you end up with, no matter how you wrap it.

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