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Friday 8 August 2014

Welcome home, villager: A window into the minds of the occupiers ("the most moral army in the world")


Graffiti left by Israeli soldiers at Beit Hanoun girls' school: photo via Hazem Balousha on twitter, 6 August 2014

Palestinians returning home find Israeli troops left faeces and venomous graffiti

Ahmed Owedat also found soldiers had thrown his TVs, fridge, and computers from upstairs windows and slashed furniture
Harriet Sherwood in Burij, The Guardian, 7 August 2014

When Ahmed Owedat returned to his home 18 days after Israeli soldiers took it over in the middle of the night, he was greeted with an overpowering stench.

He picked through the wreckage of his possessions thrown from upstairs windows to find that the departing troops had left a number of messages. One came from piles of faeces on his tiled floors and in wastepaper baskets, and a plastic bottle filled with urine.

Graffiti in Palestinian's home

Some of the graffiti Ahmed Owedat found on returning to his home in the town of Burij
: photo by Harriet Sherwood, 6 August 2014 

If that was not clear enough, the words "Fuck Hamas" had been carved into a concrete wall in the staircase. "Burn Gaza down" and "Good Arab = dead Arab" were engraved on a coffee table. The star of David was drawn in blue in a bedroom.

Graffiti left by Israeli soldiers in a house where they'd stayed during the ground invasion: photo via Hazem Balousha on twitter, 6 August 2014

"I have scrubbed the floors three times today and three times yesterday," said Owedat, 52, as he surveyed the damage, which included four televisions, a fridge, a clock and several computers tossed out of windows, shredded curtains and slashed soft furnishings.

A handful of plastic chairs had their seats ripped open, through which the occupying soldiers defecated, he said. Gaping holes had been blown in four ground-floor external walls, and there was damage from shelling to the top floor. There, in the living room, diagrams had been drawn on the walls, showing buildings and palm trees in the village, with figures that Owedat thought represented their distance from the border.

"I have no money to fix this," he said, claiming that his life savings of $10,000 (£6,000) were missing from his apartment. 

But at least it could be repaired, he acknowledged, gesturing through the broken glass at a wasteland stretching towards the Israel-Gaza border 3km away. "Every house between here and there has been destroyed."

His family of 13 fled their home after seeing troops and tanks advancing at 1am on 20 July, two days into the Israeli ground invasion. Several times, during the short-lived ceasefires in the following two weeks, they attempted to return only to find Israeli troops in their home instructing them to keep away.

Graffiti left by Israeli soldiers in a house where they'd stayed during the ground invasion: photo via Hazem Balousha on twitter, 6 August 2014

The Israel Defence Forces did not respond to a request for comment.

For the first time families of killed people in Gaza are able to have mourning tents today, during the 72 hours ceasefire: photo by Hazem Balousha via twitter, 5 August 2014

Half an hour's drive north, a similar picture was found at Beit Hanoun girls' school, taken over by the IDF following the ground operation. Broken glass and rubble littered the floors and stairs. Tables and desks were covered in the abandoned detritus of an occupying army: hardened bread rolls, empty tins of hummus, desiccated olives, cans of energy drinks, bullet casings. Flies buzzed around the rotting food.

Graffiti left by Israeli soldiers at Beit Hanoun girls' school: photo via Hazem Balousha on twitter, 6 August 2014

Here too, said the school's caretaker, Fayez, who didn't want to give his full name, soldiers had defecated in bins and cardboard boxes, and urinated in water bottles. "You will be fucked here" and "Don't forget it's time for you to die" were chalked in English on blackboards.

Here, Hamas had struck back. After the troops pulled out, counter-graffiti was sprayed on the walls, referring to Hamas's militant wing, Qassam brigades. "Qassam's army will crush you -- dogs" and "Israel will be defeated".

The 1,250 pupils at the school will, it is hoped, never see either set of venomous messages. Workers began the marathon cleanup operation this week but, said Fayez, "it will take at least a month to fix". The academic year is due to begin in a little over two weeks.

Some of devastation I have seen today in Khuzaa village east of Khanyounis: photo by Hazem Balousha via twitter, 4 August 2014

Some time back to the war ...

Defense Minister Ehud Barak commented that the Israeli army is the 'most moral army in the world...'” (3/09)

The phrase has covered a lot of mileage.

"IDF spokesperson Seymour Chutzpah meanwhile said the IDF was the most moral army in the world..." (7/14)

The verbs are interesting. "Pointed out" would betray the arrogance. "Claimed" would be too impartial. "Admitted" might be the best choice. 

"The Israeli Defense Minister conceded today that the IDF is 'the most moral army in the world...'" 

Sources for these photos are Guardian correspondent Harriet Sherwood and the internationally recognized Palestinian Journalist Hazem Balousha, whose photos and reports appear regularly in The Guardian, Al-Monitor, and DW World, among other places; he holds a BA in Journalism, an MA in International Relations, and is the founder of the Gaza City-based Palestinian Institute for Communication and Development.

Graffiti left by Israeli soldiers on a coffee table in a house where they'd stayed during the ground invasion: photo via Hazem Balousha on twitter, 6 August 2014


Mose23 said...

Bibi and his boys are nothing more than playground bullies. No doubt the soldiers were told to head out and have fun. I can see no rationale for what has happened in terms of real politik or any sense of consequence. Plain pleasure in the hurt of the other. They just want to "cut them up silly ways", as they used to say at the old Alma Mater. Monstrous children.

What they have done will haunt them in time. At least I hope so.

TC said...

Duncan, even as I share that forlorn hope, I have to say that I fear we're both guilty of assuming there to be some continuity between the way they see the world and the way we do.

Conceiving oneself the vessel of a special blood which justifies all one's acts is evidently required in order to qualify as the infantile bully of the world.

The day the infantile bully of the world is haunted by anything save the overwhelming impression of its own specialness will be a relief indeed, should it ever come.

The bombing and shelling from land, sea and air is happening again now all over the Strip.

L'Enfant de la Haute Mer said...

Doctor Mads Gilbert: Now, once more treated like animals by “the most moral army in the world” [sic!].

Israel-Gaza conflict: Doctor Mads Gilbert evokes conditions in a Gaza hospital

Maureen said...

The behavior has to be called out for what it is: depraved, disgusting, immoral.

Earlier this week I watched a film made some time before the war of border guards who utterly humiliated a bus of Palestinian travelers, forcing them at gunpoint to take everything out of their suitcases, then forcing them to stand in terrible weather while demanding the buses go and leave all of them behind. One of the soldiers said to the journalist filming it was "a little fun" they were having and he had absolutely no concern for any consequence, saying he'd do the same even if the head of state were on site. The video made me sick. The were soldiers in their '20s. Who teaches that such behavior is acceptable?

Hamas sickens me as well, holding a parade in which the children suffering so much in this war are wrapped in jihadist headbands or banners and given (toy) guns.

Yes, we reap what we sow. And what the world is reaping now leaves me in despair.

TC said...

Despair, like hope, suggests the presence of humanity, soul and conscience. These things are like tiny twinkling beacons, almost impossible to make out through the darkness and confusion of history as it happens, now.

TC said...

One meanwhile scans the occluded horizon for some sign of those distant twinkling beacons... were they an illusion, a mirage, produced by the imagination's need to extract meaning?

Has history as such been left for dead and replaced by real-time hell on IDF "precision" trainer wheels?

Israeli soldiers having fun while bombing houses in Gaza -- 8.8.14

Happy as a flock of baby larks, examining their first worm.