The recent uproar about the West-Bank incident where a lone soldier, David from the Nahal brigade, reacted violently to what may well have been a staged provocation by local Palestinian youths is a perfect example of Israel’s quagmire. You can see it here.
IDF soldiers perform security patrols in Palestinian areas in the West Bank all the time. These patrols among a hostile civilian population are a constant source of strife frequently resulting in clashes that at times cause needless injury and death, not infrequently to innocent bystanders and not all reported in full.
The situations encountered by these soldiers, mostly young conscripts who have combat training but are ill prepared for daily friction with a hostile civilian population, sometimes having to deal with antagonistic Jewish settlers as well, are almost impossible to manage over a lengthy period of time. At the same time the soldiers have to be constantly aware of what’s going on around them since terrorists may lurk among the civilians and conduct deadly attacks at the troops. Nobody should be surprised then that soldiers become emotionally numb from constant exposure to hostility and violence, or else become violent in order to let off steam over a frustrating reality that juxtaposes them almost daily to among other things, eight year olds throwing stones at them. Many of them have symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD, for lengthy periods after their service, which mostly remains unrecognized and untreated.
This impossible situation has been going on for 47 years. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have served in the territories and have been exposed to this situation. Not surprisingly, the facebook page opened for David the Nahal soldier has received more than 100,000 likes from soldiers and civilians alike who express sympathy and identify with the lone soldier tested by a couple of Palestinian youngsters, who apparently were performing for a camera. The commenters identify with the frustrations felt by David who couldn’t really handle a situation he was not trained to handle with particular skill.
The soldier was scared, he reacted with violence to provocation by two young civilians and he was right to be fearful, one of his adversaries had brass knuckles on one hand . He cursed at the two youngsters who confronted him, cocked his rifle and kicked one of them. It didn’t look pretty, events like these never do.
David is hardly responsible for this unflattering performance. The army will investigate his actions, will have to determine how he ended up all by himself in such a situation but will most likely not find fault with what he did. It may take issue with his cursing and his kicking, possibly even the cocking of his rifle. David did not act wildly different from many others in similar situations and other than causing a huge ruckus on the net and getting a lot of media coverage, nothing much happened.
Those that are responsible for this situation are the civilians in the government, those that have kept this situation running unhindered for 47 years. Most people in Israel alive today do not remember the State of Israel without the occupation. Just like the soldiers in the territories, and many of us were in the past, we are numb to what goes on. We are frustrated over a state of affairs where our soldiers are humiliated in front of the camera and can’t or won’t do much about it because they know they’ll get in trouble. And the media are taking advantage of them. And the whole world watches. And for some reason, it causes a lot more reactions than mass murder in Syria.
Once thing was apparent in this incident – the Palestinians were not scared of the soldier, not even after he cocked his rifle at them. That is as clear an indication as can be that the occupation is coming to an end. When the occupied stop being scared, the end is near. PM Netanyahu take note.