Yaba Yaba

what? another blog? you must be joking.

Gaza stories: Fat boy

with 10 comments

We were stationed in Beit Hanoun. Every day I would take some 10 soldiers or so for a foot patrol along the main streets. Fully clad, sweating like hogs, and scared like shit. You see, macho as we were – it was their turf. You keep a distance between men. Stick to the walls and look at the roofs. All the time. Last man looks back. One before last looks at the last, to see he’s not snatched. You do not stop. If you do stop, everyone knows the defence positions. When you see a stone flying over a roof you shout ‘stone!’ and everyone looks to see where the next one’s coming from. Every stone shower is a dilemma: if you run after them, most chances are you’ll just waste your breath. If you don’t, you’re inviting some more. One time a couple of guys just burst out running into the allies trying to catch the kids. 30 seconds and they were gone. I was scared as hell. Luckily, they found their way back.

Then we go past an alley, a dead end, and the kids are waiting for us. the shower scatters around us, and we all charge in. There’s a wall at the end of the alley, and a garden behind it. They jump over the wall and they’re gone. But one kid is too fat, he tries to jump over and can’t. Poor bastard.

So we take him with us. I can’t say he didn’t get a slap on the face or two. Nothing serious, but its hard to stop the guys from venting off. Pity, he looks like such a good boy. Probably got into it by mistake. Really not the type.

We walk him with us back to base.  Standard protocol is to keep him confined and call an interrogator from headquarters. Most times he’d just scare him a bit and send him home. Otherwise, if he gets logged in the system it could be 10 months jail.

We leave him by the sentry and go to wash the dust out of hour hair, maybe take our socks off and lie down in the tent until we can gather enough strength to play some backgammon. I hear some jubelious shouting, peep under the tent flap and see the cooks running towards the camp gate. I put on my shoes and rush out to meet them there, not a minute too soon. The assholes are having a party poking the kid.

If ever, in all my years of service, I nearly hit someone, it was those cooks. When my soldiers give someone on the street one across the face, I discretely take them aside, cool them off a bit. When they gave this kid an elbow, I told them to stop – but I knew where it was coming from. These cooks, they never set foot on the street. Never seen their friend’s face ripped by a metal pipe. Never smelt their friends fear sweat mixed with dust and gun oil. For them, it was entertainment. And for that, I could have skinned them.


Written by yishaym

August 17, 2007 at 1:54 am

Posted in Israel, Palestine

10 Responses

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  1. “So we take him with us. I can’t say he didn’t get a slap on the face or two. Nothing serious, but its hard to stop the guys from venting off. Pity, he looks like such a good boy. Probably got into it by mistake. Really not the type.”

    By mistake? Should he too have been a refusenik? A palestinian ‘refusenik’ who would have refused to fight the occupying army?
    You understand your men’s frustration and them venting their anger or fear by slapping a few palestinian kids. Do you understand the palestinian kids’ frustration and them venting their anger and humiliation by throwing STONES at ARMED soldiers of the world’s second or third most powerful army? Just who invaded who? Who occupies who? Don’t give me defending Israel. Defence is not occupation.


    August 20, 2007 at 1:33 pm

  2. you should know faily well that to cool off a brainwashed soldier who doesnt see the kid as a kid but as a fullgrown enemy, ture it might be unpleasant to get a stone thrown at you but how pleasant do you think it is for them to see members of their families being beaten almost to death ? go coundt haw many families in plaestine dont have anyone male over 15 arrested and beaten at least once ? on the poetic note – well written indeed – i remember my brother coming home from the army proudly telling us – his family, his brave “beating the shit out” of the arabs stories.. do think that for the soldiers it is not entertainment?
    all the 18 yearold macho boyish dreams of being the superheros and holding a gun realised in the day to day legitimated beatings of occupied, starving, homeless, unemployed and doing everything to help their families to survive palestinians……. mostly unarmed.


    August 20, 2007 at 2:02 pm

  3. Jez: easy, man. easy.
    I actually have a lot of respect for boys who are willing to face an armed patrol with stones. I have more respect for the people of Bil’in, who choose a path of non-violent resistance. By the way, history shows that the less violent the resistance, the harder it is to oppress. And if you’re looking for Palestinian refusniks, check out combatants for peace. Now, if there’s one man I admire it’s Basam Aramin.
    But all this is beside the point. All I was saying is that I don’t think the poor kid intended to be there. I think he most likely hung out with his mates when someone saw the patrol and took initiative, and he was caught in the crossfire. So, like many others, he paid the price for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
    And no, I don’t think I can understand the frustration of growing up under occupation, but I’m doing my best.

    Show me a non-brainwashed soldier.
    For some soldiers it is a matter of sadistic amusement. Some, but not all. Far from that.

    The root of all evil is the occupation. The soldiers are merely victims of this state. Of course, not on the same scale as the Palestinians. I never, ever, drew any parallel between the suffering of one party or the other. They are incomparable. Now please read the story again.


    August 20, 2007 at 11:40 pm

  4. No, not easy! I’m sorry, Yishay, but just because you put on your liberal look to tell us this story of an EVIL occupation of which you were part until you refused, doesn’t mean everyone’s gonna accept it as a necessary evil. If you can justify having been there with all sorts of ‘dovish’ retoric, then the palestinian kids can sure as hell justify throwing stones, and their parents and older brthren can sure as hell justify shooting rockets.
    Sure, it would be better if they chose a non-violent route. Is that what you advised your army mates to do when you refused? Did you call on them to refuse?
    If there is no such thing as a non-brainwashed soldier, then here’s my conclusion: don’t join the army!


    August 21, 2007 at 11:01 am

  5. Hey, did I say necessary?
    I’ve been fighting against it since I was 16. So you’re really preaching to the wrong guy. I’m not justifying any form of violence. I’m only trying to make some sense of what I see. The only form of violence which has any moral grounds is that which is clearly the only way to stop greater violence. That is not the case for most of the actions of the army, or of the Palestinian resistance / terrorists (pick your flavour).
    Your conclusion is a fine one. Its called pacifism, and even the Israeli law acknowledges it (although, unfortunately, the army doesn’t). I took a different path.

    What message did I communicate in my actions? What the hell did you think I spent a month in prison for? picking my nose?


    August 21, 2007 at 11:23 am

  6. So why not use equivalent language? Why not say you and your men were there ‘by mistake’? Why not talk of the israeli army/terrorists (pick your flavour)?
    You are the one who said the palestinians should choose pacifism. Didn’t you say so? The Israeli army occupies illeagaly. It is therefore not morally above palestinians who resist it. It is equivalent. The IDF is a terrorist, occcupying, colonising force. Whatever is expected morally of the palestinians and their fighters should be expected morally of the Israelis and their fighters. The language used to describe both sides should also be morally equivalent.
    I have several times said I respect you for refusing. It was I think the right thing to do. That does not mean I think everything you say is morally right. Far from it. Indeed, I call on you to take that refusal to its logical conclusion and call on all soldiers to refuse, because until the politicians decide to act, that is the only way to stop the occupation.


    August 21, 2007 at 12:37 pm

  7. I call on all humans to consider the ethics of their actions, and to find the courage to do what they believe is right.
    The soldiers in the story above (note: story, as in personal narrative and subjective perspective) choose to be at the point of confrontation, so they may have been mistaken – but they were not there by mistake. The poor kid might have intended to take part in the event, or he might have been on his way home from school when someone else picked a fight.
    I never asked you to accept my views or opinions, just respect them as I respect yours.


    August 21, 2007 at 12:47 pm

  8. Jez, I dispute that the IDF can be comprehended as a terrorist, colonising, occupying force, although like many armies it has been all of those things on occasion (terrorist least of all). When you use words like that, implying a violent imperialist agenda for its own ends, you signal that you hold certain views of Israel. I wonder whether an end to the occupation (which I fervently hope for) would be enough for you.

    Regarding your “logical confusion” refuseniks have to contend with feelings of guilt from all sides – about their role in the occupation, and about standing aside while their peers put themselves in danger. Yishay has done something very difficult – don’t ask him as an individual on his blog to condemn soldiers who participate in the occupation (you seem to be asking this). Particularly since you yourself have not here condemned terrorist acts on the part of Palestinians which many Israelis hold up as evidence of the need for the occupation to continue.

    We should put our energies into supporting political processes in Israel and Palestine and empowering their citizens, not into badering refuseniks for not refusing properly.


    August 21, 2007 at 1:33 pm

  9. Oops I meant “logical conclusion”. I know it looks really snide, but honestly no pun intended, Jez.


    August 21, 2007 at 1:34 pm

  10. Yishay,
    Obviously, technically, the IDF soldiers were probably not there by mistake. Obviously, I never thought your story was anything else than a personal narrative. In a personal narrative you have to be aware of how your words can be construed. When we hear talk of ‘terrorism’ to describe the actions of palestinian resistants yet nothing of the sort to describe the terrorising acts of the IDF, we can talk of a lack of moral equiavalence. It’s the same in your text, or so it seems. I think it needs to be clear, that there is no ‘accident’ in the existence of an armed palestinian resistance to the occupation let alone stone-throwing kids. Of course, you can only give your side of events, and that’s something worth doing, but I don’t think that precludes a linguistic moral equivalence.

    On the terrorist aspect of the IDF, as I wrote above to Yishay, it’s an army that terrorises, which is something most if not all armies are taught to do, and something most practice and not least
    western armies (in which I include the IDF in this case).
    Indeed, I don’t think an end to the occupation would turn the IDF in to a peaceful force. Firstly, you’d have to define ‘occupation’. The IDF has supposedly withdrawn from Gaza, but Israel retains the power to control borders and enters Gaza whenever it feels like it. The same was true in southern Lebanon after the so-called withdrawl and before the 2006 war.
    Secondly, until the Palestinians have a sovereign state within the internationally recognised borders of the Green Line, I don’t see the IDF becoming a peaceful force. Even then, it will probably still be, like most armies an army trained to terrorise if it suits the policies of the state. The US army has been terrorising others for well over a century, as have done the British, the French, the Germans and countless others and countless smaller players often with the help of those just mentioned as well as Israel.
    So, implying, that I think the IDF and Israel are in this particular event a special case is totally unfounded. Israel is special in many ways, foremost because it enjoys such huge and unconditional support from the most powerful states in the world while behaving at least as badly as many ‘terrorist’ states. However, that does not mean it is the only ‘rogue’ state.

    As for me not condemning palestinian ‘terrorist’ actions: what I’ve done is to point out that there is no level playing field. The stones, rockets and suicide attacks as heinous as the latter are, are not what caused the occupation and do not justify the continuing illegal occupation. On the contrary, there would be more chance of an end to those acts if the occupation ended and the Palestinians get a real state. If those soldiers hadn’t been there, they wouldn’t have had stones thrown at them. If no israeli soldiers were in palestinian territory, Israelis wouldn’t have to live in fear. If The palestinians controlled their own lives in their own state both them and Israelis would be able to live peacefully. At least as peacefully as two neighbouring states with such baggage can.


    August 21, 2007 at 9:06 pm

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