Individuals’ violence is indicative of Israel’s colonial violence

Fanatic Jewish settlers stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque compound accompanying with Israeli riot police (Jerusalem Islamic Waqf - Anadolu Agency)

Middle East Monitor  /  October 27, 2022

A week ago, the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din filmed the collaboration near the village of Burin of an Israeli security coordinator of the illegal Har Bracha Jewish settlement and a Jewish settler involved in violence against Palestinian civilians. The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) suspended the coordinator and described the action as “an exception to what is expected of a qualified security official.” It provided an excuse for Israel to pinpoint individuals selectively when they embody the occupation state’s commitment to violence against Palestinians.

The Har Bracha settlement declared full support “against the false news reports and the claims of the Arabs [Palestinians].” Such a statement went beyond the IDF’s perfunctory declaration, although the culture of impunity remains untampered with.

Yesh Din called for the prosecution of the security coordinator, who was in uniform despite being a civilian. The Head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, said that the man in question “must receive the backing, just as every soldier or officer must receive backing when fulfilling his duty, even if there is a one-off professional mistake.”

Whatever happens to him (probably nothing), the footage showed an example of the daily violence against Palestinians which is part of a much bigger narrative. Israel was founded on terrorist violence; ethnic cleansing, massacres and forced displacement are a major part of the Zionist colonial enterprise as we know it. Its biggest achievement in terms of being able to act with impunity has been to get the international community to shift the parameters of what constitute human rights and international law violations. Israel’s departure from the tactics which Zionist paramilitaries used to establish the colonial entity has enabled it to normalize its own violations within international acceptance of the colonial “security and self-defence” narrative. There is no Israeli violence that the UN will stand up against, particularly when such violations are recurring, whether daily, or according to season, such as during the olive harvest in Palestine, for example.

Contrary to what Dagan claimed, the filmed violence was not “a one-off professional mistake.” It was representative of the violence which Israel and its institutions endorse. While the IDF does indeed prefer to highlight the actions of an individual as not being representative of its personnel, the truth is that such a tactic has been possible partly because not all Israeli violations have been filmed, thus not all perpetrators can be identified. And even when they are identified, little if anything is done to them. There is thus no escaping the fact that Israel’s violence is part of the settler-colonial psyche exhibited by the army and the illegal settlers.

Suspension from one’s job is hardly a punitive measure. The IDF’s motive for such a “punishment” has more to do with generating an illusion of a single person committing a bad action – still with complete impunity – rather than exposing the army’s immorality and that of the violent settler-colonial entity that it protects. The bureaucratic nature of Israel’s violence, which is embedded deeply within the state’s institutions, also diverts attention away from the real issues at stake: namely that the actions of every soldier and settler involved in violence against Palestinians are protected — and often aided and abetted — by the same entities which depend upon violence for their survival. Very much like the state of Israel itself, in fact.