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December 16, 2020 6:56 am

Why Does the World Ignore Israel’s Need to Prevent Terror Attacks?

avatar by Galia Palmer

Opinion

IDF forces exit the Gaza Strip as part of Operation Last Dawn, the final stage of the Gaza Disengagement, which occurred in the summer of 2005. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

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.

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.”

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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.

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.”

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.”

While there’s no doubt that finding strangers in your home is an unpleasant experience, it’s important to understand the context: Israeli troops are sent into hostile territory to capture terrorists and terrorist sympathizers. The vast majority of combat soldiers are aged between 18-20, and in the course of duty, some behave in ways that are irresponsible and inconsiderate. That said, soldiers are regularly instructed not to take anything unnecessary from homes they may enter, and to leave things in good condition. Soldiers who are found breaking these rules are typically sentenced to time in military jail. Framing the exceptions to the rule as evidence that Israeli search and arrest raids are “dehumanizing” is deceptive; the cited instance is an isolated event that cannot serve as proof for a systemic issue within the Israeli military.

As one currently serving soldier told HonestReporting, “If I were to do any of that, or 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. My personal officer said that if you commit any unnecessary violence, you’ll never see a mission again for the rest of your service. So while I can’t say whether that happened or not, I don’t believe that’s normal.”

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

But sadly, when Breaking the Silence is involved, readers should by now expect only half the story to be told.

The cause for these midnight raids is rooted in the Intifada that took place in the early 2000s. In response to the failure of the Camp David Summit peace process, Palestinians launched wave after wave of suicide bombings, rock throwing attacks, and shootings against Israeli civilians.

In order to protect Israeli citizens from the very real threat that exists in these areas, the IDF unfortunately has to keep a close eye on the West Bank. Soldiers entering homes regularly find troves of weapons and stolen military equipment.

While it is fair for the media to detail inconveniences and indignities suffered by regular, law-abiding civilians, the reality is far more complex and also deserves proper coverage: Palestinian terrorists, hiding in plain clothes and based out of civilian areas, carry out attacks against Israeli civilians and armed forces.

Totally omitting this vital context, as the Guardian does with alarming frequency, leaves readers misinformed as to the reality facing the Israeli army. In many cases, there is simply no alternative to entering civilian homes. Characterizing these incidents as occurring purely for the purposes of intimidation is a baseless smear.

Galia Palmer writes for HonestReporting, where this article first appeared.

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