Monday, October 22, 2007

It never gets less disturbing.

It's not like this was really a secret. And it seems clear to me that 'lack of training' is no excuse. To take Juan Cole's refutation of this claim one step further, it seems obvious to me that blaming acts of unhinged violence on lack of training is basically a way of trying to separate the criminality and brutality of this behavior from the nature and legitimacy of the occupation itself. But when would an occupier act any differently? There is no corrective to this inhuman brutality other than an end to the occupation, and the vast majority of the onus for making this happen falls on the dominant power, the occupier. Though it is a difficult fact to face for those who condone the occupation either directly or tacitly, this is really not a chicken-or-egg question.

Something else, from out of the Guardian article:

A spokeswoman for the Israeli army said that, if a soldier deviates from the army's norms, they could be investigated by the military police or face criminal investigation.

Where do I know that excuse from?


Blogger info said...

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October 24, 2007 at 2:31 PM  
Blogger J. Benjamin Franklin said...

It's not just bad training, according to the article, it's boredom, which is a very deep issue in our culture.

Consider this quote from the cited article:

"In the words of one soldier: 'The truth? When there is chaos, I like it. That's when I enjoy it. It's like a drug. If I don't go into Rafah, and if there isn't some kind of riot once in some weeks, I go nuts.'"

This is not a quote to be taken as a sociopath's response to being in a state of war, it is to be taken as an explanation of boredom and purpose. A person who loves or has learned to love chaos above order suggests that order itself is seen as stultifying, disempowering, or otherwise boring. Since this person is a soldier in state of "occupation" as you call it, the situation itself only becomes real when occupation is an act rather than a state. If it is an act, the soldier feels he is activated and purposeful and alive. She is doing her job. If occupation is merely a state of affairs, the soldier feels that he is at rest, a statistic - bored.

So, in the great biblical tradition, it is not enough to lay down swords, one must beat them into ploughshares. Otherwise boredom sets in. The chaos of a riot is to be preferred over the boredom of mutual inaction.

October 24, 2007 at 2:41 PM  
Blogger JDS said...

I wouldn't disagree with you there. And in my mind, it IS an occupation- but not in the sense that I perceive it as such, rather, in the sense that that's what it IS. Believe me, I recognize that acknowledging this can create serious emotional conflict depending on where you're coming from. I would really never try to belittle that, and I think that many who speak out against the occupation have a very hard time for their part recognizing why someone might have difficulty speaking the word 'occupation' in this context.

Anyway, I think 'boredom' as a factor is perfectly in keeping with the idea that any human in that situation is liable to have a similar response. This is not to absolve an individual soldier of his or her specific actions (you can always refuse- as a Jew, I have a hard time hearing another Jew refer to social pressure as an excuse for such behavior, for what I think are obvious reasons). It is to say, though, that it is the situation itself, the state of occupation, that presents the individuals who fill the role of occupiers with the choice of how to conduct themselves as such. One can, on the one hand, face the consequences of refusing, as some in this case have. On the other hand, one can submit to the violent animal impulses that are a fact of humanity across the board, but are not, I hope, uncontrollable.

So yes, I agree with the gist of what you're saying. But to clarify: I do not buy "lack of training" in the sense that I do not believe there will be a point at which the occupation will be ongoing but the IDF will have "corrected its tendency to transgress." The brutality described by the study is in my mind part and parcel of this and any occcupation, and it will go on as long as the occupation goes on and the Palestinians resist it, which they will only stop doing if they are broken. And breaking the will to resist is, on an individual level, exactly what at least one of the soldiers quoted in that article aimed to do when he, by his own admission, kicked a Palestinian woman in the vagina after she threw a clog at him. The animal impulse towards violence, chaos, etc., very much serves the mechanism of occupation.

The implications of what it would mean to truly break the Palestinian will to resist are more horrifying than I can really imagine. We as Jews have in our living collective memory the scars of such horror. The occupation must end.

October 24, 2007 at 4:18 PM  

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