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From the Facebook page 'I stand with David Hanahlawi '
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Soldiers holding up signs saying ‘We also stand with David Hanahlawi (Hebrew slang for a Nahal soldier).’Photo by From the Facebook page ‘I stand with David Hanahlawi ‘

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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.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit also chose not to respond to questions concerning the arrest of Saddam Abu Sneinah, the youth from the video who was holding prayer beads, and who Adamov said was holding brass knuckles and supposedly threatening him, the poor guy. Threatened? In a settler area, in front of a checkpoint manned by armed soldiers? Next to a military camp? Chief of Staff Benny Gantz – With soldiers who are so weak, insecure and delusional, you should be very worried.

Soldiers beat Abu Sneinah when they arrested him. The IDF Spokesperson did not deny or respond to this assertion. Because it’s the norm. Soldiers beat handcuffed Palestinian detainees. It’s part of the dehumanization, of the routine violence. It’s gone on for 47 years (the occupation), for 66 years (the State of Israel), and we’re not done yet. Nor did the IDF Spokesperson issue a response when asked whether the fact that such beatings are the norm meant the commanders support the beating of detainees. The soldiers kept Abu Sneinah handcuffed and blindfolded for an entire night, on a concrete floor with no mattress. The IDF Spokesperson did not deny or respond when asked if this was torture. The IDF Spokesperson did not identify either the commander who ordered Abu Sneinah’s arrest or the commander who was responsible for the atrocious conditions in which he was kept. The IDF Spokesperson also did not respond when asked why, when Abu Sneinah was released, after 24 hours, he was rearrested by different soldiers at the checkpoint near Shuhada Street. He was held for another hour, and the heroic soldiers beat him some more.

There was no point asking the IDF Spokesperson why the soldiers don’t speak Arabic. The center operated by Youth Against Settlements — that’s the organization that published the videos of the encounter between Adamov and Abu Sneinah — has a Hebrew class for Palestinian children from Hebron’s Old City. So they can understand what the soldiers are saying, so they’ll remember that despite their job, the soldiers are human beings, with hearts and minds. “How are you?” one of the “youths” asked a soldier in Hebrew a few days after the Adamov incident. “Praise God,” answered the soldier, leading some settler children to shout at him: “Why are you talking to an Arab?”

“You son of a bitch, as soon as I get a chance, I’ll shoot you,” a soldier named Effi told Issa Amro, one of the founders of Youth Against Settlements. “Keep your ugly mouth shut,” another soldier told Amro. On the orders of a Russian-accented civilian — a woman — the soldiers raided the organization’s center, ostensibly in search of rock-throwers.

One can understand the soldiers and the way they talk to the Palestinians: The curses, the derogatory language, help the armed Israelis to pretend to be superior and righteous. It’s hard for them to confront the courage, nobility, determination and restraint with which the older Palestinian activists receive them. It’s hard for them, and others like them, when they are confronted with the courage, nobility, determination and restraint with which the vast majority of Palestinians continues to bear our violent and brutal presence, in the confident knowledge that it will end.