Lawrence of Cyberia broke my heart tonight. But as anyone who has followed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can tell you, your heart breaks far too often when you come to care for the fate of these two troubled peoples. There are all too many opportunities to get your heart broken.
Tonight, Diane wrote about a particularly nasty 2003 incident first reported in the New York Times, in which Israeli Border Police picked a 17 year-old Hebron boy at random, threw him in the back of their jeep, drove him to the town’s deserted industrial zone and beat him up along the way. An officer in the front seat filmed a trophy video of the beating while his colleagues in the back seat did the deed. When they tired of the beating they physically threw him from the speeding jeep. The boy died when his head hit the ground with the jeep traveling roughly 40-50 mph.
The reason Diane wrote about this story is that this month one of the four perpetrators was convicted of the killing (his three colleagues remain on trial). But after reading the defense lawyer’s claim that these men were only acting according to standards set for them by the Border Police itself, she began to realize that a litany of similar prosecutions against other Border Police personnel for similar abuse proved the lawyer correct. In other words, both the Border Police–perhaps explicitly–and Israeli society tacitly want their police to terrorize the Palestinian population treating it in a brutish, bestial manner. So why prosecute individual officers for doing what they were taught to do?
I’m not sure whether Diane believes the four policemen should be set free. But she certainly does want to focus attention on the institution of the police itself and its history of sadistic treatment of Palestinians.
Among her litany of similar cases was this one. It’s the one that broke my heart.
B’Tselem reports that Nazih Salah ‘Awad Damiri, a 24-year old Palestinian shepherd living near Tulkarem came upon Israeli Border policemen while moving his flock through a fence. After they detained him and forced him to humiliate himself in their presence, the officers had far worse in store:
Then he told me to ride to the nearby grove. I asked him about my ID card. He told me that we hadn’t finished, and that he would be behind me. He and the other policeman followed me in the jeep. When we reached the grove, he tied the donkey to a tree and told me to fuck it. He repeated his demand a couple of times. He also told me to lift up the tail of the donkey and tie it around my head. I told him that the tail was too short, and that I wasn’t able to do it. He stood facing me and aimed his weapon at me. The other policeman was in the jeep, watching what was going on.
I stood behind the donkey, took out my penis, and told him “enough.” He said, “I’ll tell you when it is enough.” I was frightened to death, and I couldn’t get an erection, so I couldn’t do anything. He made me continue, and I pretended that I was doing what he wanted me to do. I tried to look over at them, but the policeman yelled at me and told me not to look, and that if I did, he would shoot me. This went on for about thirty minutes, before he told me to stop. He tightened the saddle on my back and gave me back my ID card. Then he told me, “Ride over to the flock, fuck them, and I’ll chase you.” I rode away, the saddle still on me, and he watched me go. After I got some distance away from them, I untied the saddle and walked over to my brother, who was on the land west of the fence, and told him what happened.
I post these stories not to single the Israeli side out for special opprobrium. I make clear regularly when I write about this conflict that there is degradation, brutality and humiliation on both sides. Perhaps the Israelis have more power and opportunity to inflict a greater share on the Palestinians, but that doesn’t mean the latter get off scot free either. For what is Palestinian suicide bombing other than the utmost torture? It’s the Occupation, stupid. It destroys humanity for both Israelis and Palestinians. And we can expect such bestial behavior to continue till there is a breakthrough for peace.