A peaceful demonstration in Beit Ommar turned violent after Israeli soldiers physically and verbally assaulted a small group of activists protesting a new military checkpoint in the small West Bank village. The assault was documented through video footage and released exclusively on Ynet News. The footage features a small squad of Israeli soldiers beating at least four activists and shouting discriminatory slurs at them. According to Ynet, the soldiers had been sent to arrest the protesters.
I came across the following comment in response to the original Ynet article:
These protests are staged for one purpose. To make the IDF look bad. The “protesters” are coached in ways to make the soldiers angry and lose control so they can catch them on the conveniently placed video cameras. Should the soldiers refuse to be provoked? Of course. But how many young men in any situation like this anywhere in the world would have even the self-control that these soldiers do in the face of their own people that they’re risking their lives to protect spitting on them and facilitating their enemies to throw rocks at them. Shame on Ynet for pandering to this manufactured “news!”
This is the type of comment that is almost just as effective as the video in exposing just how blatantly wrong Israeli strategy is. But let us assume for a brief moment that the protesters — which are taken to represent the entire community of pro-Palestine activists — are indeed “coached” to provoke Israeli soldiers into losing control. Soldiers, particularly ones who receive formal training and serve in one of the top three highest funded armies in the world, are taught to endure the rough conditions of warfare. If a soldier can keep his nerve, focus on his objective, and contain rages of emotion that oftentimes endanger himself and his comrades during intense gun battles, the same soldier can certainly keep his cool and maintain his professionalism during tense encounters with unarmed, untrained civilians.
But as the video footage clearly shows, these Israeli soldiers lost control and instead used excessive physical force and vulgar insults against a group of defenseless civilian activists. War is ugly but this is not the fault of protesters. In the most ideal sense, the soldiers are deployed to maintain order even at the risk of their own lives. Nothing, however, even came close to threatening their safety or their livelihood during this encounter. The physical abuse, which left at least two protesters mildly injured, cannot be justified as an issue of self-defense or as an expected reaction to provocative leftist groups. This is the exact type of activity condemned by international war law.
In response to the comment, protests are not staged to “make the IDF look bad”. The Israeli military does that on its own. The protests are “staged” to reveal the violent nature of the occupation in which even peaceful, pro-justice activism is treated as if it were violent resistance. Israeli soldiers are not angry because protesters provoke them; they’re angry because they harbor disdain toward peace or Arabs or both. The captured footage illustrates the regular activity of the world’s self-proclaimed most moral army.
Seventeen of the activists were arrested. Thirteen have since been released.