One operation in Hawwara has been etched into my memory. It’s an Arab village, not exactly quiet, but it’s no Jenin.
What happened there?
Basically, what happened was, the Jews decided to go on a rampage in the Tapuach area. There are settlements there and all kinds of outposts.
You weren’t in the village . . .
We weren’t in the village but Hawwara was in our sector. They sent us to get the mess in Hawwara under control. That’s at the beginning. We didn’t know what the mess was. We got there. The settlers had decided to attack the residents of the village, and we—we’re supposed to protect them and make sure nothing happens to them.
The settlers were in Hawwara?
They came to protest, and they started throwing stones at the village, at Hawwara, on the main road and creating disturbances. There was a group of people from outside Israel who were demonstrating in support of the Jewish settlement, and they were goading on the settlers. I remember I was on the verge of hitting one of them . . . they were a group of fanatical French Jews who’d come and were taking pictures of what was going on there . . .
What were the Arabs doing?
Nothing. They were scared.
Did the settlers have weapons?
They had weapons and threw stones. Children were hurling stones at adults.
Were there women there?
Women were there as well, but not many. But there were settler women there. So we’re standing there, and the French group was bothering us, the IDF.
What did you try to do? Stop the stone throwing, or just protect the settlers?
Protect the settlers and make sure that nothing happened to them while they’re throwing stones, while they’re going on a rampage . . .
Was that the official order?
What can you do? Security is the most important thing. Security. Protecting the settlers. You get there, they’re united, they’re throwing stones. You back them up, you provide cover. Now, on the one hand people from the village are gathering on rooftops, and you’re scared to death because you’re exposed to Palestinians, and on the other hand, you don’t know what to do, because you’re protecting the settlers who decided to start this whole thing. It got to the point where we just wanted to stop it. We didn’t want to let the settlers into the village.
Wasn’t that the first thing you wanted to do?
No, we waited for the police.
Meaning, you didn’t move the settlers in the meantime?
No, but at some point I think one of the officers tried to stop them from throwing stones so they’d leave and get out of there. It got to the point where he was afraid. We tried to stop them from bothering the Palestinians, but we also had to protect them and protect ourselves . . . it was crazy, absurd. And they, the settlers, didn’t care. They didn’t care about the soldiers, and certainly not about the Palestinians.
And when you come and try to stop them . . .
You hit them.
You hit the settlers?
Yes. And then the guys from outside Israel come, the French people, and they start taking photographs, and then you start hitting people. They’re lying under your jeep, and you want to hit them, too. They come with their video cameras, and you grab an eighteen-year-old boy and shove him into the car, and some idiot woman with a video camera comes and videotapes you. And in the meantime the settlers continue their rampage. You want to slap them and throw them out, the settlers, too— one by one, they’re throwing stones! They’re throwing stones and maybe . . . they start shooting, they shoot! Throwing stones at houses and people . . .
Did anyone get hurt?
Not too bad. Not that we didn’t go and treat them, it was three hours . . .
Who was injured? The settlers or the Arabs?
No, no, no . . . the Arabs.
Did anyone get hit in the head?
Are you kidding me? I think more than ten people got hit in the head.
Were they bleeding?
They start bleeding and they run away. Someone was standing in the window of his house . . . By the way, those same settlers, there was one day when they shot at the water tanks. They just shot the water tanks in Hawwara.
How did this end?
It ended with us throwing them out.
You threw them out?
You took them out physically?
No, in a car. They came in their cars, got out, and started throwing stones. Because of the potential danger to soldiers, it was hard to stop them. For the first hour or so you protect them, you let them throw stones . . .
You let them throw rocks for an hour and no one says anything?
You don’t understand what happened. We were on a vehicular patrol when we got there. We didn’t know what was happening. Afterward, we realized we needed to prevent disturbances like that from happening.
And the settlers still kept throwing stones?
Yes. And there were a lot of them, and they were doing whatever they wanted. They have eight or nine vehicles backing them up, something like that, and they stopped the traffic. And you’re fighting with them, and then the French group came . . .
They don’t try to injure the soldiers? The local population?
No way! They poke their heads out the window, they get hit with a stone, and they go back inside. Think about it, they’re in shock. People live there. They stick their heads out their windows, they get hit with a stone. They walk down the street, they get hit with stones. At that moment, their lives and routines were in danger.
So who got up and said, “Let’s stop the settlers . . .”?
Our battalion commander decided it was enough. That it was too dangerous if they resisted and a terrorist group suddenly arrived. And things changed pretty fast. We put the settlers in our vehicles and we got rid of those Frenchmen and we started putting out the fire. We didn’t do it out of humanitarian concern. We didn’t stop the settlers because the IDF became humane all of a sudden, it was just so that there wouldn’t be a huge mess, so that some terrorist group wouldn’t come along or something—we were thinking of the soldiers, not the people.