The Israeli police have finally moved to evict the forty families residing in the illegal Amona outpost. Anticipating the police operation, some rabbis called on the public to converge on Amona and resist. As a result, police arrived to face hundreds of mostly teenage settlers. A real battle erupted as the young settlers fortified their positions, poured oil on the main settlement road, burned tires, hurled rocks, shoved and cursed police, and barricaded themselves in houses. The police had to forcibly drag settlers from their homes, kicking and screaming while several Knesset members offered the settlers support. The entire melee was broadcast live on Israeli television. Settler teenagers have wounded over 60 police officers with stones and acid.

The occupation creates a topsy-turvy system where settlers have the power to invert legal hierarchies. Religious zealots commit violence, dispossess innocents and subvert the democratic state since they, not the state, exercise authority.

Palestinians, on the other hand, are not just thrust into a separate legal system administered by the IDF. This system places Palestinians into a juridical labyrinth that reinforces subservience not simply through punishment but also via procedural dysphoria.

This is the context of the moral dystopia of occupation: generations of settlers have been raised to believe they are the messianic spearhead for the Greater Israel. Young people who have grown up to believe that they have the right, indeed the duty to confiscate private Palestinian land and then righteously express outrage when the Israeli Supreme Court rules that they must return it to its legal owners.

Generations of Palestinians in contrast are reared to keep their head down amid a litany of daily injustices. It’s an existence where hurling a rock symbolizes an early act of defiance, and because of that, IDF jurists harshly squash lest it manifest into something more.

Nery Ramati, a human rights lawyer, recently told Partners for Progressive Israel’s Study Tour that a few years ago he came across an interrogation video of three 12-13 year-old settler kids from Bat-Ayin, who were suspect of throwing a Molotov cocktail on a Palestinian taxi. The taxi burst into flames and six Palestinian passengers were wounded. The police found fingerprints of one of the kids on a ready-to-use Molotov cocktail nearby. Ramati, who usually defends Palestinian children in Israeli military court, found the settler kids’ behavior shocking. The kids showed no fear, they didn’t flinch. They brazenly laughed at the interrogators and cursed them.

Ramati contrasted this with the behavior of Palestinian children before IDF interrogators.

The Palestinian kids that Ramati defends spill everything they know within the first few minutes of interrogation. They are terrified of the men in uniform sitting across the table. “It doesn’t matter how much you inform them of their right to remain silent. They almost never do,” Ramati told us.

During our study tour participants witnessed this juridical labyrinth in a visit to the Offer Military Court. There we observed the trial of a 13-year-old Palestinian boy arrested for throwing stones. No one had been hurt. The only evidence against the boy was the testimony of soldiers who later apprehended him because they recognized his clothing. The presiding judge Abraham Einhorn, an American born in Pittsburgh, briefly explained the preceding to us in English. No such courtesy was given to the child. The hearing was conducted in Hebrew and a soldier occasionally translated to Arabic. The interrogator’s report, which the kid was asked to sign, was also written in Hebrew. The fact that the kid couldn’t read it didn’t matter much. There was no pretense to justice. The child looked out of place, scared and disoriented. His distraught father pleaded to release him until trial. The judge silenced the father and remanded the kid. The judge explained that unfortunately Palestinian society lacks the institutions to guarantee the child would not reoffend before the trial. It was an argument out of a Kafka’s Trial, as if Palestinian society which has been under occupation for nearly fifty years could be blamed for failing to build such institutions. During the hearing, two young female prosecutors in uniform giggled and whispered in the corner.

This is the occupation in a nutshell. The hills of the West Bank breed two distinct prototypes of children. On the one hand, there are the Amona and Bat Aiyn kids who proudly shed the stereotype of the diaspora Jews; they grow up believing they are the masters of the universe and lower their heads to no one. They feel entitled to the land, and entitled to disobey court orders, to resist the police and order soldiers around. Within a mile or two, Palestinian kids grow up seeing their fathers’ helplessness confronting 18-year old soldiers who tell them to where to walk, search their homes in the middle of the night or humiliate them at checkpoints. These two childhood prototypes are the inevitable products of a system designed to keep the kids of Amona and Bat Aiyn safe in the midst of 2.8 million hostile Palestinians. Terrorizing the Palestinian population daily is the only way to protect four-hundred thousand settlers. The daily practice of the occupation isn’t sadistic. The IDF isn’t better or worse than any other military practicing such a mission. We cannot improve the occupation or make it more humane. We must end it.

Maya Haber is the director of Programming and Strategy at Partners for Progressive Israel. She blogs for the Huffington Post and contributed to the Forward, Haaretz, the Post‐Gazette and +972.


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