Israeli soldiers search for Palestinian terrorists, and their weapons, in the West Bank. It’s a perfectly understandable response to attacks on Israeli civilian and soldiers, to find those responsible for past attacks and to prevent future ones, but The Guardian managed, in its inimitable anti-Israel way, to describe these searches as something sinister, a deliberate attempt by Israeli stormtroopers to intimidate and harass innocent Palestinians.
An article by Peter Beaumont in The Guardian last month, titled “Dehumanising: Israeli groups’ verdict on military invasions of Palestinian homes,” includes several anecdotes depicting IDF raids on Palestinian homes as being conducted only to intimidate, as well as sections dedicated to the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-inducing effects of these operations.
The piece is based on a “damning report” by controversial far-left organization Breaking the Silence, demonstrates extreme bias, and serves as an unreasonable representation of the Israeli military. The inaccuracies are manifold: there is not a single hard piece of evidence, but rather only unverified claims from Palestinians and political activists with a well-documented anti-Israel agenda; the situation is presented without relevant historical or political context; and the Israeli side of the story is almost completely excluded.
The title of the article is sensationalist, factually incorrect, and accusatory. It depicts search and arrest missions as “dehumanizing” to conjure graphic and traumatic imagery. Similarly, the phrase “military invasions” is grossly misapplied: military invasions typically refer to the aggressive conquering of territory. A more accurate description of the activity described in the article would be “arrests.” Units in the West Bank are sent to enter homes in order to arrest either known or suspected perpetrators of terror and violence.
When a handful of IDF soldiers enter a house to locate and arrest a terrorist, this does not constitute a “military invasion” — that phrase implies a much larger, more ferocious operation, with intent to kill, not “arrest,” enemy soldiers. The aim of the IDF is only to take into custody someone who has been involved in murderous violence, not to harm, nor frighten, anyone else in the dwelling. Of course, despite the Israeli soldiers reassuring others who may be in the house that they have nothing to fear, in the nature of things there will be some in the house who will be frightened while the search for, and possible arrest of, a known or suspected terrorist is being conducted. The IDF has strict rules for regulating the behavior of the soldiers, in order to minimize the discomfort and fear of those in the houses being searched. The Guardian says nothing about those rules.
As a combat soldier currently serving in the Israeli military told HonestReporting, “It’s how conflict works everywhere in the world. The West Bank, for all the political nuances there are, it’s no different. We have to go in and do our job, and it’s going to cause some discomfort for whoever is in the house, whoever isn’t the suspect.”
When Israeli soldiers enter Palestinian homes to carry out an arrest, there is no systemic intent to make the citizens of those communities feel patronized or “dehumanized.” Rather, the IDF is fulfilling its obligation to keep Israeli citizens safe.
The Israelis do not come in, guns blazing, and screaming like SS men, as The Guardian report suggests. They are instructed not to scare the inhabitants, not to remove or damage any property (except weapons), and to use as little violence as possible in locating, and removing, the terrorist sought.
As stated, the entire article is based on a report by Breaking the Silence — an organization with a history of spreading lies and anti-Israel smears. Making things worse, the Israeli side is only placed at the very end of the article, creating an unjust asymmetry in the reporting.
The Guardian also cites a local Imam, who claims that the IDF’s arrest and search raids are really “to scare everyone. To show who is in charge.”
The IDF does not conduct these raids to “scare everyone” or to intimidate Palestinians and “show who is in charge.” It deliberately tries not to scare the innocent, while removing the guilty. The mission is to take the terrorist into custody with a minimum of disruption to the household. The IDF soldiers are not engaged in random searches to instill fear, but are given the name and photographs of the suspect sought.
That description avoids acknowledging the reality in which Israeli soldiers operate. Beaumont is happy to let this unverified claim stand unopposed, but in reality, things are far more complex — and testimonies that support the idea that the IDF invades homes solely as an intimidation tactic do not align with reality. As soldiers who have served in the IDF can testify, troops are always given a specific name and pictures before entering any home. Soldiers are also told who else might be in the house, and never get orders just to go in and look for trouble.
The Guardian’s same source claimed that, “On one occasion, I remember I had gone to the mosque for the first early morning prayers. When I came back the soldiers were in my house. They had put all of my family in the kitchen. When I went into my bedroom I found three soldiers resting on the bed.”
My goodness! “Three soldiers were resting on the bed.” What a terrifying experience that must have been. Practically the tactics of the SS. Of course, if those soldiers were “resting on the bed” – innocuous as that was – they would, according to a serving soldier, even for such a mild infraction, be punished. And if this is the worst example of misbehavior by Israeli soldiers that The Guardian’s anti-Israel source, Breaking the Silence, can come up with, how very well-behaved those young soldiers must be. No reports of anyone being screamed at, no broken dishes, no snacks taken from the refrigerator. Nothing but three soldiers taking a brief rest on a bed. And mild as that infraction would be, a serving soldier in the IDF has said that “If I knew anyone who were to just lay on someone’s bed in the middle of an arrest, I don’t believe that person would be going on any arrests for the rest of their service.”
…The Guardian article goes on to include an anecdote about a soldier who was unable to understand a family frantically “begging” for something, only for the soldiers to realize that it was for seizure medication for a family member. The soldier’s conclusion from this sad incident, however, takes a giant leap with no substantial evidence brought: “It was clear from the commanders that we should use the search to take advantage to squeeze the maximum out of each house we entered for anything suspicious. ”In reality, in every combat unit in the army, there is at least one soldier who goes to an Arabic training course. These soldiers learn rudimentary Arabic, but cannot be expected to learn the language to a high enough level to know specific words such as “seizure” when preparing for arrests in the West Bank.
There is no evidence that the soldiers involved in this incident were deliberately preventing a family from getting medication for a family member, in order to “squeeze the maximum” information out of the family. It was a simple case of not understanding the request in Arabic. In fact, it is precisely because of such concerns that the IDF makes sure that at least one soldier in every combat unit has had some Arabic. In the case cited, that elementary knowledge of Arabic did not include the word “seizure.” After this incident, the IDF no doubt will make sure to include an expanded list of Arabic words that pertain to medical conditions.
A proper telling of the story of these attempts to arrest terrorists would begin with the terrorist attacks themselves, describing their targets, their frequency, the immense anguish that they cause, and how the perpetrators, always dressed as civilians, return to hide in their family homes in the West Bank. And then it would describe the “arrests” – not “military invasions” – that IDF troops make, with a minimum of fuss and violence, of terrorists located in those homes on the West Bank. The IDF does not conduct random searches, or engage in collective punishment so that terrorists will be “given up” by their families or communities. It searches for specific terrorists, whose names it knows, and whose photographs its soldiers possess, to minimize mistakes. There are no random searches to intimidate Palestinians or to “teach them who is boss,” as one imam meretriciously claimed. The soldiers are under strict instructions not to take or break anything, not to behave in a a way that would cause undue friction, but to remain calm and polite with family members, treating them with consideration. No other army in the world has done better at enforcing such a strict code of conduct.
Something as simple as a soldier briefly lying on a bed – the worst example of misbehavior that Breaking the Silence can come up with – would lead to an Israeli soldier being banned from taking part in future raids. That is the truth that Breaking the Silence – and its dutiful outlet, The Guardian – don’t want to convey. So we’ve done it for them instead.
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