The Palestinians did not win (and presumably never will win), but Israel lost once again. The remnants of its humanity are being erased with frightening and unprecedented speed. Horrors are being perpetrated in the occupied territories at a frequency and degree never seen before.
The stones or stabbings that could justify such crimes have not yet been created – and are greeted with a shrug of the shoulder by the Israeli public. Its exposure to the behavior of its soldiers and police officers is always mediated by the Israeli media, which can be counted upon to blur, polish and hide as much as possible. But social media sites spit out the images, horror after horror. One glance and you are embarrassed; one more and a sense of nausea mixed with anger overwhelms you.
What didn’t happen this weekend (apart from the stabbings, which resulted in minor Israeli injuries): An 8-month-old Palestinian baby died, allegedly from inhaling tear gas at Beit Fajjar, south of Bethlehem. “We’ll fire tear gas at you until you die. Children, adults, old people, everyone, everything – we won’t leave a single one of you,” barked a Border Police officer into the speaker of his armored jeep in the Al-Aida refugee camp, in the name of all Israelis.
A different Border Police jeep deliberately ran over a Palestinian who was throwing stones near Beit El. What happened next is difficult to watch: The badly injured Palestinian lies on the ground, Border Police troops kick him and rudely repel the Palestinian rescue teams before they can treat him.
Another Border Police officer, in a different place, hits a gas mask-wearing journalist who dared to take pictures. Somewhere else, pepper spray is spritzed directly into the face of a photographer, who falls down, his face contorted in pain.
Ahmed Manasra, the 13-year-old boy who allegedly stabbed two Israelis, wounding them seriously, was brought to a remand hearing in handcuffs. He is being charged with attempted murder, but prosecutors will try to drag out the proceedings for more than two months, until he turns 14. Then he will face decades in prison if convicted – and that is all but guaranteed. The demure prosecutor has promised to pursue “terrorists” of “any age.”
Israel graciously deigned to return the bodies of seven Palestinians after a sickening delay that led to outbursts of rage in the territories. The bodies of assailants who were shot to death are stripped by soldiers and police officers in public, the images of their naked bodies shared on social media. The lust for demolishing the homes of terrorists – quickly and in large quantity – cannot be satisfied. A civilian, Mashiah Ben Ami, boasts that he fired no fewer than 15 bullets at a Palestinian who tried to stab him and tore his shirt.
The debate over a shoot-to-kill policy, using live bullets, toward any person who stabs or wields a knife, regardless of dangerousness, has not even begun in Israel. It never will. Over 70 Palestinians have been killed in this manner since the beginning of the uprising.
It is tumultuous, this uprising, and it’s the most predictable thing that ever happened here. It cannot be suppressed through the use of force, and the soldiers and policemen who face the raging crowd and try to do so can only be pitied.
But when this wave diminishes, on hiatus until the next one, we will be left with the real disaster: Look at the soldiers, and especially the Border Police, observe their storm trooper-like barbaric behavior toward anyone in their path, and you’ll understand what awaits us and what character the country will have, if it doesn’t already have it.
Those who maliciously run over a teenager and then viciously kick him; who threaten mass killing with gas and assault medical teams and journalists – knowing they won’t be punished and will only be praised – are citizens who are lost to democracy. They are kalgasim, as we say in Hebrew (“vicious invaders”). And those who cover for them, who look on with apathy and indifference – these are their partners. Full partners.
Gideon Levy is a Haaretz correspondent.