It took the Israeli army a year to admit what every Palestinian knows, and only a willfully ignorant Israeli can deny, that Israeli soldiers abuse their power over civilian Palestinians; that this is not just a matter of few, undisciplined exceptions. This practice is particularly widespread in road blocks and check points, that are now speared over every road in the West Bank and Gaza. Brigadier-General Yitzhak Gershon, Commander of the West Bank, and Colonel Ilan Paz, Commander of Ramalla, have expressed concern about the spreading of these practices. It appears that the army is more concerned about property crimes than it is about physical harassment of Palestinians who are forced to go through check points whenever they try to move outside their village, or town.
The army spokesman has confirmed the facts, but tries to blur them: “The IDF condemns instances when its soldiers do not treat passers through the check-points properly. When such an instance is discovered the case is investigated, the relevant soldiers are taken care of, and the lessons of the case are passed on to the other forces in the region to prevent any recurrence. Work to educate the soldiers is carried out at the brigade and battalion levels. The seriousness of the issue is made very clear to the soldiers.”
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon learns about such instances from the VIP angle, when senior Palestinian officials complain to him. Sharon’s office has handled at least two complaints about harassment of senior officials in the Palestinian Authority. An unnecessary bodily search was performed on Arafat’s deputy, Abu-Mazen, when he went through the Alenby bridge. Mohammad Rashid, Arafat’s advisor on the economy, was forced to lie on his back for a bodily search to be performed on him.
Sharon visited the Gaza strip last Friday to talk with brigade commanders. The ministry of Justice has tried to warn Sharon that his activity in the Occupied Territories can further complicate his position in the eyes of international law. Sharon chose to ignore the warning.