Ruth Mason
Writer, mother, parent educator, activist, gardner

What happened to the IDF?

If Gideon Levy’s s reportage in Friday’s Ha’aretz is accurate, an IDF soldier shot 10-year-old Khalil Anati in the back in the Al Fawar refugee camp near Hebron on August 10, then drove off in his jeep. The boy’s uncle rushed him to the hospital — but it was too late. Ha’aretz earlier reported the boy’s age as 12.

I want to say I can’t imagine an Israeli soldier committing an act like this. But in the same issue of Haaretz, Or Kashti reports on a study by Idan Yaron and Yoram Harpaz about racism and ethnic hatred among our youth. Their forthcoming book, Scenes from School Life, quotes a 10th grade girl from the center of the country:

“…Arabs are something…I can’t stand. I am tremendously racist. I come from a racist home. If I get a chance in the army to shoot one of them I won’t think twice.” A girl who stands up to the racist discourse in her class surrounded and verbally attacked. The authors say our education system is not equipped to deal with racism in pupils.

I’m worried and I’m scared. I believed the IDF and the government about the civilian casualties in Gaza. It’s war. Hamas is shooting rockets at us from the midst of a civilian population. We warn them when we can in more ways than one. The civilian death toll is Hamas’s responsibility.

This is different. We are not at war with the Palestinians in the West Bank. We are occupying them, and although I don’t condone the occupation and know it must end, I believe we are there because we fear for our security. I don’t pretend to know what the solution is, though the Saudi Peace Plan gives me hope. I don’t understand why our government does not respond to it.

I love Israel. I picked up my family and moved them here from the U.S. 21 years ago, causing no little upheaval in the lives of our three children. All four of my grandparents made aliyah from Bukhara more than a century ago. Four of my siblings were raised here. I served in the IDF. It is my love for Israel that makes me hesitate to write these words. I don’t want to give our myriad enemies, many of whom use anti-Zionism as a cloak for anti-Semitism, more ammunition. But I also feel I can’t remain silent in light of this anonymous soldier’s action. This is not my Israel.

According to Levy, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit published an unusual statement on its website saying it regrets the boy’s death. In response to a Ha’aretz inquiry, the army said the soldiers opened fire in response to “violent disturbances” while accompanying and securing a national water company truck and that an investigation has been launched. The people Levy interviewed at the camp said only three or four children were in the street at the time. It’s impossible to know who to believe, but the IDF’s purity of arms code, of which we are all so proud, states:

“The soldier shall make use of his weaponry and power only for the fulfillment of the mission and solely to the extent required; he will maintain his humanity even in combat. The soldier shall not employ his weaponry and power in order to harm non-combatants or prisoners of war, and shall do all he can to avoid harming their lives, body, honor and property.”

Camp residents admitted the children were throwing stones at the armored jeep. The earlier Haaretz article stated that “residents” were throwing stones but that Khalil was not involved. I know that stones can injure and even kill, but I doubt a 10-year-old boy can cause that kind of damage. And even if the soldiers did feel threatened by the children, why didn’t they fire tear gas or rubber bullets?

It’s one thing when a bomb dropped on a rocket launcher located near a residential building after warning residents, tragically kills a child. It’s another thing altogether to aim your gun at the back of a fleeing child and shoot him.

My son, who recently finished serving as a combat soldier, says there are people like this soldier in every army. But this is our army.

I’m waiting for the IDF’s investigation. If we want to prevent this from happening again, the punishment should be meaningful and publicized.

About the Author
Born to Bukharian parents in Los Angeles, Ruth Mason immigrated to Israel with her family in 1993 after a long stint in Manhattan. She is a veteran journalist and columnist who now writes for Shatil, the action arm of the New Israel Fund. A lifelong baby lover, she teaches parent-infant classes based on the RIE and Pikler approaches.