Home / Reports / Soldier to human rights worker: “In case you haven’t noticed, Israel is not a democracy”

Soldier to human rights worker: “In case you haven’t noticed, Israel is not a democracy”

by ISM Hebron

On Saturday June 16, at 8.15 am, two human rights workers (HRWs) were taking a tour through the olive groves near the illegal Israeli settlement of Tel Rumeida when they heard dialogue in Hebrew coming from the second floor of a Palestinian home. The owner of this house is a Palestinian man who recently purchased it. Because of the daily harassment by Israeli soldiers and settlers, the house was abandoned by its original Palestinian owners, trashed by the settlers, then turned into a military outpost. The owner of the house plans to renovate it so the Palestinian family move in.

The internationals called for two other human rights workers to come to the Palestinian home. When the HRWs arrived, they yelled into the house, “Whose there?” They waited for a short time before Israeli soldiers appeared in the windows. Internationals discovered that the 6 Israeli soldiers had been trespassing in the home for quite some time.

When the internationals asked if the soldiers had permission to be in the house, the soldiers said the house was a closed military zone and therefore they had permission to be there, and that the internationals must leave. When the HRWs asked for papers proving that the area around the house was a closed military zone, however, the soldiers failed to produce any. The HRWs told the soldiers that the house was private property, and owned by a Palestinian man. When the HRWs suggested that the soldiers vacate the house in which they were illegally trespassing, one solider took two cups of coffee and poured it out the window so that it ran down the front of the house.

HRWs then went up to the second floor of the house and confronted the soldiers. They told them repeatedly that they were not allowed to be in the house owned by the Palestinian, and when they looked in the windows they noticed mats on the floor and that the soldiers had been sleeping there.

The soldiers then exited to the back of the house where they proceeded to take photographs of the human rights workers. When one HRW told them that it is against international and Israeli law to occupy people’s houses, one of the soldiers answered: “But in case you have not noticed, Israel is not a democracy.”

After about 45 minutes members of TIPH (Temporary International Presence in Hebron) came to the house.When the TIPH workers asked the soldiers if they had proper documentation that insured that they had the right to be in the house, they suddenly would not answer and pretended to not understand English.

At 9.15 the soldiers apparently grew tired of the situation and went from the back of the house around to outside the front where they sat down.

Two soldiers were hanging onto the windows downstairs taking photos of the internationals that stayed at the bottom of the house to make sure the soldiers wouldn’t try to get in to the house again.

At 9.40 the soldiers left from outside the front of the house and exited the area.

When the human rights workers took a tour of the house after the soldiers had left, they found Russian text written on the inside of the house. Russian graffiti was also noted on the walls of the house in the past. Two of the soldiers were Russian.

The following day, Sunday June 17, at 3:30pm, three settler boys- 10 to 13 years of age- came from the illegal Israeli settlement of Tel Rumeida and used a mirror to reflect the sun in the eyes of Palestinian residents and international humans rights workers. The mirror was about 10 inches in diameter. A Palestinian man tried to shoo the boys away but they continued to shine light in people’s faces. The settler boys called the Israeli soldier who was stationed nearby, to intervene. The settlers claimed that the Palestinian man was threatening them. The Israeli soldier came over and told the Palestinian man to go inside his home. The Palestinian man then went inside.

The Israeli settler children continued to disturb the internationals until the mirror was broken. However the children then each picked up shards of the glass and continued to harass the HRWs. One of the internationals then approached the soldier and asked him to intervene and stop the kids because it was especially dangerous with sharp shards of glass. The soldier at first tried to say he did not understand but finally he asked the kids to come over to him, and after talking to them for some time they began to walk toward the settlement. Along the way, however, the settlers stopped between two Palestinian homes and began to taunt the Palestinian residents verbally. The internationals again intervened and asked that the soldier make the children go home. When the settlers noticed the soldier approaching, the proceeded to leave the area.