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Text testimonies Pointless arrests
catalog number: 599184
Rank: First Sergeant
Unit: Nahal, 50th Battalion
Area: Ramallah and al-Bireh area
period: 2008 - 2009
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Pointless arrests
Rank: First Sergeant
Unit: Nahal, 50th Battalion
Area: Ramallah and al-Bireh area
period: 2008 - 2009

We were tired of making some of the arrests. We had the feeling that they were pointless, for example, searching for people who cut apart fences, or people who threw stones or were inciters or who’d been identified at demonstrations against the wall. It felt pointless. If you had the feeling in Hebron that you’re just arresting some poor loser, here it felt like we were doing nothing. There was one arrest, I don’t remember which village it was, and things started heating up, and there was a mess and I remember the company commander pointed his gun and said they need to calm down, and then the Shin Bet came into the village, to a couple of houses belonging to the same big family.

What happened in the end? They took who they needed and that was it.

What was the guys’ age range? Fifteen, sixteen up to twenty-three, twenty-four.

And you’re saying that they’d cut fences, thrown stones, and had been seen at protests?Yes.

Protests in Ni’lin? [To prevent expansion of the Separation Barrier, which will cut off a sizable part of the town] No, protests in the area. I remember one of my toughest experiences there—I often had to take detainees to Ofer base, and like I said, the army’s right and left hands are two different things . . . I had to take this one guy to the battalion’s base for a night until the vehicle arrived, the Safari. In the meantime I went to bed. The guy sat there cuffed and blindfolded. I told the guard not to do anything stupid, they gave him water, and we covered him with a sleeping bag because it was cold. I remember it was horrible, because Ofer only opens at a certain time and we waited, and the driver was sick, and it was horrible watching him like that, he had to pee, I was standing next to him with the gun.

How long was he like that, handcuffed and blindfolded? A good few hours. Until they took him in and then it was over. No one could tell me what to do with him. A total mess. We waited at Ofer and he sat in the Safari and after the arrest I couldn’t sleep for hours at night.

There is people who you just dried out [The term refers to holding a detainee without formally bringing him into detention]? There’s always tension, both in Hebron and in Rantis. The basic things— sitting in a room with a guard, the handcuffs, the blindfold, giving them food or water or a blanket—that we always do. There was no question. There were right-wing guys who thought it was too much and the leftists who . . . and you ask yourself that maybe we’re being too kind. That’s where the standards of good and bad start to deteriorate, and I think that’s the hardest thing, that in Hebron, it was absolute, there’s black and white, what’s good and bad, but the day-to-day is so gray. Every person you arrest, his kid didn’t do anything, and you get the feeling that you’ve destroyed his kid.

There are guys you took in for detention? The dilemma is every day, you go out on patrol, that’s the basis of your presence there. I felt a dilemma. But in these places it’s more about the limit of your decency. What it means to be humane is very unclear.

What I’m asking is, the ones where you felt a dilemma, were they people you brought into detention, or people you just dried out? In Hebron it wasn’t, again, I don’t know, because there were also people in Hebron who stole metal, seven-year-old kids who wanted to steal metal, and the only thing they did was steal metal to sell because they didn’t have any money at home, so they crossed Shuhada street, which they’re not allowed to cross. Shuhada separates the Jewish settlement from the casbah and they’re allowed to be in Abu Sneina and the casbah, but not in between. So they’d catch them and there was nothing the police could do with them, so you sit them down at the post for two hours. You’ve got no way to deal with it or solve it, so you dry them out. Maybe the way I see things is very distorted compared to how they are in the day-to-day. I don’t know. My aunt is a psychologist and she told me that to understand it you have to be out of it completely, and I can’t tell you what’s good and what isn’t, because I don’t have the tools.