FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Israeli Soldiers and Palestinian Youths

by ANNIE C. HIGGINS

Nicole Gaouette recently presented a view of soldiers seeking healing after serving time in the occupied Palestinian territories [Where Israeli soldiers go to heal, The Christian Science Monitor, December 17, 2002]. On very rare occasions, they make attempts to begin the healing while they are on site with Palestinians, as happened in Jenin last month, November 2002.

“I am not going to shoot them; I didn’t come here to shoot children,” the earnest young soldier with sensitive eyes told me, as a crowd of schoolchildren temporarily stopped throwing stones. However, his colleague, a sniper poised in the window of the house the Army had occupied, had just shot one child and positioned his M16 rifle for another.

The first soldier had joined a highly unusual spontaneous coming-together a few days earlier on this site across from Jenin Refugee Camp: with the accompaniment of international volunteers, soldiers and children unclutched guns and stones, and engaged in dialogue. The children listened to statements like the one above from individual soldiers who do not want to perpetrate violence against civilians. The soldiers listened to the children tell why they were reacting against the Army’s presence. One bashful boy showed a picture of his little brother whom the Army killed during the April invasion. He spoke softly of how they made his mother bleed to death by preventing ambulances from reaching her after they shot her. During the conversation, some of the children and soldiers shook hands.

Now, a few days later, they were shaking hands again, as they felt this particular soldier was a friend. He asked me plaintively why some of them were still throwing stones. I said it was a reaction to the continual violence of the occupation, not to his individual outreach. I asked the children, all of whom were under twelve, if they would like to be in school. The resounding response was, “YES!” The Army’s tank-enforced curfew had already prevented them from as many school days as they had attended since the start of the year. The window sniper began shooting again but the children left the friendly soldier alone, turned away, and responded excitedly to my idea of meeting together to perform story-telling later in the day. We did not know that the Army’s activities would obstruct this little window of creativity.

I had encountered these soldiers a few days earlier when they chased boys across a field near the same occupied house, bringing them to the wall encircling the Palestine Red Crescent Society. Safely inside the wall, I had been making a phonecall when a shout punctuated the evening calm. “Don’t shoot!” cried out a tall international, jumping onto a bench to grasp the boy caught in the iron spikes at the top. Another boy had successfully scaled the wall, but his companion was caught in a soldier’s grip, pulling his shoulder out of joint. I dashed over, accompanied by ambulance workers, and a jangle of words spilled over the wall where the boy was balancing precariously.

One soldier was a human bomb. It seemed that his white rage alone could destroy all within his range, including himself. “Don’t touch him or I’ll shoot!” he exploded. The international spoke reassuringly, urging him to hold his fire. The dialoging soldier provided some balance, but implored the international to let him have just five minutes with the boy to teach him a lesson. “I want to make him an example to show the boys that we can catch them. I won’t hurt him. I just want to give an example.” The international took this up, and reminded him of another kind of example, when the boys and soldiers had been talking together a few days before. “Yes, I was there, but today they are throwing stones again. I won’t hurt him. I just want to show him and his friends them we can catch them.”

The human bomb had a different idea and cocked his rifle to shoot. The ambulance worker said he would talk with the boy. A range of emotions formed a tempestuous symphony: one soldier’s violent rage, another soldier’s heartfelt desire for benign punishment, the third soldier’s silent confusion, and the calmness of those fighting for the boy’s safety. The boy, seeking refuge, leaned back onto the international and both fell six feet to the ground with a solid thud. I kept my eye on the soldiers, and moments later was surprised to see man and boy standing up without harm. Later the man confided that, considering the fall, he felt it was a miracle that he got up at all.

Now the sniper was threatening that he would shoot the ambulance, where the workers had placed the boy to transport him to the hospital for treatment. With a little more coaxing, the tempest subsided and the soldiers backed off as the ambulance closed its doors with the boy safely inside. That evening, we saw the boy at the hospital, and the international who saved him greeted him warmly with wishes of peace and health. The boy stared at him and hardly responded. He was not ungrateful, just shaken up over the incident. I saw him several weeks later with his arm still bandaged, and he was exuberant with thanks for the tall, kind man.

I feel profoundly privileged to have witnessed these transformations of enmity into dialogue, sparks of hope that go unreported but that are working changes in hearts.

At the same time, I cannot ignore the fact that the Israeli Army has continued to kill children at an unprecedented rate. Since the time of these hopeful dialogues, the Army has killed sixteen minors in the West Bank and Gaza, three of them from Jenin.

They killed ten-year-old Muhammad Bilalo on the same day they killed the UN’s Iain Hook, November 22. They killed Ibrahim Sa`di on November 16, and Mu`tazz `Awde on December 2. They continue to wound children at their homes, mosques, and schools, including the boy who spoke shyly with the soldiers about losing his mother and brother.

Where do soldiers go for healing? Imagine that the soldiers seeking healing would refrain from shooting civilians, save the two thousand dollars for trauma treatment, and donate it to a creative arts program for children in the areas where their Army has planted violence.

Soldiers and children have already demonstrated a capacity for dialogue. This pattern has only to be practiced.

Annie Higgins teaches arabic in Chicago.

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

April 27, 2017
Darlene Dubuisson – Mark Schuller
“You Live Under Fear”: 50,000 Haitian People at Risk of Deportation
Karl Grossman
The Crash of Cassini and the Nuclearization of Space
Robert Hunziker
Venezuela Ablaze
John W. Whitehead
Trump’s America is a Constitution-Free Zone
Ron Jacobs
One Hundred Years That Shook the World
Judith Deutsch
Convenient Untruths About “Human Nature:” Can People Deal with Climate Change and Nuclear Weapons?
Don Fitz
Is Pope Francis the World’s Most Powerful Advocate for Climate Stability?
Thomas Mountain
Africa’s War Lord Queen: The Bloodstained Career of Liberia’s Eleanor Sirleaf Johnson
Binoy Kampmark
Short Choices: the French Presidential Elections
Paul C. Bermanzohn
Monetizing My Mouth
Michael Barker
Of Union Dreams and Nightmares: Cesar Chavez and Why Funding Matters
Elier Ramirez Cañedo
“Let Venezuela give me a way of serving her, she has in me a son.”
Paul Mobbs
Cellphones, WIFI and Cancer: Will Trump’s Budget Cuts Kill ‘Electrosmog’ Research?
Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee
The Closing of Rikers: a Survival Strategy of the Carceral State
April 26, 2017
Richard Moser
Empire Abroad, Empire At Home
Stan Cox
For Climate Justice, It’s the 33 Percent Who’ll Have to Pick Up the Tab
Paul Craig Roberts
The Looting Machine Called Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
The Dilemma for Intelligence Agencies
Christy Rodgers
Remaining Animal
Joseph Natoli
Facts, Opinions, Tweets, Words
Mel Gurtov
No Exit? The NY Times and North Korea
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Women on the Move: Can Three Women and a Truck Quell the Tide of Sexual Violence and Domestic Abuse?
Michael J. Sainato
Trump’s Wikileaks Flip-Flop
Manuel E. Yepe
North Korea’s Antidote to the US
Kim C. Domenico
‘Courting Failure:’ the Key to Resistance is Ending Animacide
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Legacy of Lynne Stewart, the People’s Lawyer
Andrew Stewart
The People vs. Bernie Sanders
Daniel Warner
“Vive La France, Vive La République” vs. “God Bless America”
April 25, 2017
Russell Mokhiber
It’s Impossible to Support Single-Payer and Defend Obamacare
Nozomi Hayase
Prosecution of Assange is Persecution of Free Speech
Robert Fisk
The Madder Trump Gets, the More Seriously the World Takes Him
Giles Longley-Cook
Trump the Gardener
Bill Quigley
Major Challenges of New Orleans Charter Schools Exposed at NAACP Hearing
Jack Random
Little Fingers and Big Egos
Stanley L. Cohen
Dissent on the Lower East Side: the Post-Political Condition
Stephen Cooper
Conscientious Justice-Loving Alabamians, Speak Up!
Michael J. Sainato
Did the NRA Play a Role in the Forcing the Resignation of Surgeon General?
David Swanson
The F-35 and the Incinerating Ski Slope
Binoy Kampmark
Mike Pence in Oz
Peter Paul Catterall
Green Nationalism? How the Far Right Could Learn to Love the Environment
George Wuerthner
Range Riders: Making Tom Sawyer Proud
Clancy Sigal
It’s the Pits: the Miner’s Blues
Robert K. Tan
Abe is Taking Japan Back to the Bad Old Fascism
April 24, 2017
Mike Whitney
Is Mad Dog Planning to Invade East Syria?    
John Steppling
Puritan Jackals
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail