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Policing the Ghetto
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In ghetto-like environments, legally constituted state authorities can plausibly claim full control over the enclave only if they can they break up concentrations of rebellious residents into smaller and more manageable groups.[21] In the Palestinian ghetto, consequently, much of the initial Israeli anti-Intifada effort focused on dispersing Palestinian demonstrations and reimposing Jewish control over Palestinian public space, with special emphasis on what the army called the "Palestinian street." If the military could effectively control Palestine's main roads and thoroughfares, it believed it could control the ghetto more broadly.

Palestinian roads became hotly contested arenas when Intifada activists realized that the best way to protest Israeli rule was to limit Jewish traffic through the enclave. Palestinian activists couldn't enter Israel proper to demonstrate or attack government offices, and economic boycotts of Israeli products had little effect. Segregated in their ethno-national pocket through strict Israeli pass-and-permit systems, bureaucratic controls, and checkpoints, Palestinians could best disrupt Israeli rule by preventing Jewish vehicles from passing freely through their own areas.[22]

Palestinian barricades posed huge problems for the military because they threatened the well-being of Jewish settlers, one of Israel's most powerful political constituencies. Settlers were furious at the disruption the barricades caused to their lives and efforts to normalize Jewish rule in Palestine. The barricades also posed an acute logistical problem for the

military, since the thousands of troops scattered throughout the West Bank and Gaza relied on a steady stream of military traffic. Palestinian efforts forced army transports to move about in convoys, complicating schedules and posing serious threats to drivers. The barricades also constrained the activities of Israel's internal security service, the Shabak.[23] The clandestine agency, fluent in the fault lines of Palestinian society, had for years controlled ghetto life through a vast network of patronage, informers, administrative deprivations, and interrogation centers.[24] Until this point, its efforts had proved remarkably effective, permitting Israel to rule Palestine with only a few thousand armed men during the 1970s and 1980s. Underlying the Shabak's power was its ability to quickly locate and detain Palestinians, but the roadblocks threatened to throw the whole system into disrepair. The arrest-and-interrogation nexus, linchpin of the Israeli control system, was rapidly unraveling. "The Shabak can't do anything without the army," explained Colonel Avi, a senior military commander in Hebron during 1988.[25] "How can the Shabak go into the village and arrest someone if the village is blocked off? If you need a company or two [of soldiers] to break into the village, to arrest the rioters, how can the Shabak get into the village? How can the Shabak order people to come to interrogation? It can't. It needs the army for that." Shabak interrogators were the moving force behind the Israeli control system in Palestine, but the Intifada was making it impossible for them to do their job. The military had to find a way to break through so that the Shabak police could continue to make arrests.

The Palestinian challenge to Jewish traffic was also a symbolic threat to Israeli power. If the army wasn't able to ensure that Jewish settlers and soldiers could go where they wished, the state's claim to wield an effectively monopoly over administration and governance would be imperiled. Eventually, Palestinian claims for sovereignty might find greater support internationally, forcing Israel to withdraw. The military was therefore determined to reassert control, and as a result, many anti-Intifada activities revolved around the battle for Palestine's roads.

Veterans spoke at length about the intimate relationship between the Israeli perception of restoring "law and order" and the army's effort to dominate the roads. Colonel Yossi, a battalion commander stationed in Gaza during 1988, said his orders were to "impose order" and demonstrate military control.[26] It was essential to ensure that the main traffic arteries were open. As Colonel Yiftach, a battalion commander in Gaza, said, "What we wanted was for there to be quiet in our area. When the area is quiet the regional commander gets off my back, the chief of staff

gets off the regional commander's back, and the prime minister gets off the chief of staff's back."[27] Quiet, in turn, was defined as the absence of Palestinian road blockages.

The military devised two general road-clearing tactics. The first was a limited effort aimed at breaking up blockages and pushing rebels off major roads. The second was a broader, more punitive campaign that sought to deter stone throwers and street protestors by bringing the battle to Palestinian neighborhoods, towns, and villages. The first tactic had a "defensive" aura about it, while the second seemed more "offensive."

Colonel Yiftach was a proponent of limited road defense. "I didn't believe that it was necessary to go into each shitty alley. What does it matter to my ass? We needed to guard the main roads." As long as the demonstrators were kept away from major traffic arteries used by Jews, Yiftach felt his job was done. He therefore deployed his men largely along the main roads, refraining from entering the surrounding neighborhoods. Colonel Yiftach believed that aggressive military patrols off the main roads, in smaller Palestinian alleyways, created more trouble than they were worth. Colonel Yossi, the other Gaza-based battalion commander, preferred the more intrusive policy, explaining that his men needed to penetrate the most remote alleys and deepest refugee camp corners. Palestinians were "like children … like everyone who rebels … in adolescence … they always need to feel where the limit is, where [adult] contact is. When we pulled back to the main roads, they came to fight us on the main roads, and it was a harder struggle. It was much easier to fight with them inside [their refugee camps] than to allow demonstrators to reach main roads."[28]

Both tactics had parallels in an earlier and more despotic era. "Road defense" resembled the Israeli border patrol's ambushes against infiltrators during the 1950s, while the more "aggressive" effort followed the logic of retaliatory raids during the same era. Palestine had been since transformed from frontier to ghetto, however, and fully despotic methods were no longer appropriate. Israeli troops devised alternatives that caused suffering while reducing the number of slain Palestinians to a minimum.

"Defensive" Measures along Palestine's Main Roads

Colonel Amit's early 1988 experiences in the southern West Bank exemplify tactics of road "defense." Then a colonel in the paratroop reserves, Amit was sent in January 1988 to join Intifada-repression efforts near

Hebron.[29] One evening, Amit recalled, he was ordered to patrol the Jerusalem-Hebron thoroughfare, a major transportation artery, and stop stone throwers from approaching the road across a boulder-strewn field. Colonel Amit said his first plan was to speak to village leaders in the adjacent Palestinian village.[30] "I told them, ‘If your people leave the road alone, we'll stay out of your village.’" In the early hours of the morning, however, several dozen Palestinian protestors tried to cross toward the main road, passing through the Israeli troops. Colonel Amit resolved the road "would be the last line of defense. I wouldn't let them get to the road.… Blocking the road would be worse than anything else. If they had succeeding in blocking the main artery between Hebron and Jerusalem, then what? … This would be the last spot. If they broke us there, then the army itself and the entire system would be broken."

Having determined the urgency of his task, Colonel Amit decided to use a small-caliber rifle to defend the road.[31] At first, he said, he fired warning shots in the air, but then took aim at the protestors themselves. "So you say [to yourself], come on, stop, stop, and they keep on coming." And Colonel Amit continued to fire his rifle. In less than an hour, Amit said he killed four Palestinians and wounded seventeen, including some gravely injured by shots to the spine. Amit said he aimed at the legs, but hit the upper body when the Palestinians suddenly turned or dropped for cover. Today, Colonel Amit sees his preoccupation with defending the road as strange but says it made sense at the time.

Although Amit's experience was similar in form to the border patrol's shoot-to-kill policies in an earlier era, it differed in crucial ways. First, his goal was to defend Jewish traffic through the Palestinian enclave, rather than to secure Israel's international borders. Second, Colonel Amit used a .22 rifle to minimize casualties. Third, he allegedly tried to wound, rather than kill, the stone throwers. As in the beating case described above, Amit's actions combine a mixture of police-style restraint with cold-blooded brutality. He killed four persons and wounded seventeen, even though their crimes hardly merited the punishment. At the same time, however, he could have killed many more. Had Colonel Amit been stationed in another institutional setting—Lebanon, for example—he might have shot to kill without a moment's hesitation, given the prevalence of different norms. As he noted, "You're talking about people's rights [in the West Bank and Gaza]. But on the Jordanian or Lebanese border," soldiers shoot to kill without question. "What about those persons' rights?" Institutional setting was key, and Palestine was a ghetto, not a frontier. Colonel Amit's mixture of restraint and savagery

was produced by Palestine's ghetto setting, where non-Jews were oppressed but also partially protected.

Preemptive Punitive Action: Colonel Eytan's Nighttime Raid

The punitive style of road protection was exemplified by the 1988 experiences of Colonel Eytan, then stationed in the northern West Bank. During the first months of the uprising, Jewish traffic along the main Nablusarea axis was disrupted repeatedly by Palestinian stone throwers from Hawara and Beita, two roadside villages. Colonel Eytan, then "advisor for Intifada affairs" for the regional military command, had unsuccessfully tried to prevent further road protests.[32] Exasperated, Colonel Eytan turned to the Israeli secret service for a list of suspects and resolved to teach them a lesson by raiding the two villages, arresting the suspects, and breaking their arms and legs. He chose several infantry platoons for the task, including one led by Lieutenant Dan, a regular army platoon commander.[33] On the evening of January 19, 1988, Lieutenant Dan's platoon entered the village of Beita, declared a strict curfew, arrested twelve youths on Colonel Eytan's list, and drove them to a nearby field. Amir, then a private soldier in Lieutenant Dan's platoon, recalled that the soldiers were told (by their officers, he thought) to deliver precise blows to prisoners' kneecaps. Otherwise, Amir explained, "you could hit the bone for an hour and nothing would break."[34] In the field, Lieutenant Dan told his men to break the suspects' limbs with newly issued truncheons. Since he was under orders not to kill, Lieutenant Dan stressed that the beatings should avoid the victims' stomach and face. "There was a lot of screaming," Lieutenant Dan recalled. The next evening Dan's men did the same in the village of Hawara.

Previously, Colonel Eytan had distributed truncheons to encourage his troops to conceive of themselves as police rather than combat soldiers. The soldiers used the clubs so forcefully, however, that they kept breaking. Eventually, Colonel Eytan ordered the quartermaster to distribute iron bars instead of clubs. Colonel Eytan said that in the context of the times, his decision to break Palestinians' arms and legs was not as strange as it might appear. There was much talk among the higher echelons of the need to "smash" Palestinian demonstrations and "break" the demonstrators' wills. To the men involved, the escalation to breaking individual demonstrators' arms and legs did not seem particularly dramatic.

Colonel Eytan had been given the task of keeping his sector's roads

open and physically dispersing Palestinian demonstrators while minimizing his resort to deadly force. His soldiers were detaining hundreds of Palestinians each week, but the jails were overflowing, and the military justice system was overburdened. Under those circumstances, selective targeting of key suspects seemed rational and effective. Colonel Eytan's scheme is also of note because it was an adaptation of Israel's punitive raiding policy from the 1950s and 1960s, when the West Bank was an Israeli frontier. In those years, Israeli forces might have destroyed Hawara and Beita or killed its inhabitants, but now that Palestine had become a ghetto, that was unthinkable. Instead, Eytan's troops tried to break the Palestinians' arms and legs, avoiding murder but inflicting pain.

Amit's and Eytan's experiences suggest that Israel's preoccupation with law and order, defined as the physical dispersal of Palestinian gatherings near roads, heavily shaped the contours of Israeli violence. These officers and others employed two broad tactics—road defense and punitive raids—and both were adaptations of more deadly patterns of Israeli military violence. As we shall see below, Jewish extremists tried to push the army to use far more drastic methods, viewing any policy that left Palestinians in their homes as a failure. The law and order preoccupation, however, kept ethnic cleansing off the agenda. Law and order was incompatible with despotism, and so the army focused instead on securing Palestine's roads, using methods heavily constrained by Palestine's ghetto-like setting.


In early 1988, mass incarceration of Palestinians seemed to provide a more encompassing solution to Israel's ghetto control problems. If Palestinians were blocking the roads, why not simply put them in prison? Extensive incarceration had the dual attraction of removing protestors from circulation while also fitting nicely into a policing paradigm. What could be more police-like than putting criminals behind bars? If the military was eager to bolster its law-and-order image, incarceration seemed enormously worthwhile. Imprisonment was also a useful alternative to deadly force, helping Israeli officials project a calm, legalistic, and police-like aura. The ghetto setting, in other words, generated symbolic incentives for mass incarceration.

Before the Intifada, the number of Palestinians detained by Israel hovered at around 5,000 on any given day. That number more than doubled in the first year of the uprising, however, and by 1989, some 14,000

Palestinians were full-time prisoners, plus several hundreds held in temporary holding facilities. The army built five new prisons and recruited thousands of troops to serve as guards, creating a large new prison bureaucracy. By 1989, Israel was imprisoning some 1,000 persons out of every 100,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, making the region the most heavily imprisoned society in the world (among countries assembling such data).[35] By way of comparison, Israel proper had only 110 prisoners per 100,000 in 1989, the United States had 426, Northern Ireland had 120, and South Africa had 240, while the Western European average was below 100.[36] At the height of the 1950s Gulag era, the Soviet Union had 1,423 prisoners per 100,000.[37] The Palestinian experience, in other words, was closer in per capita terms to the Gulag than to apartheid South Africa.

Incarceration began with an arrest by Israeli soldiers, who were authorized to detain Palestinians on the slimmest of grounds. Sometimes, male Palestinians were arrested without being suspected of a concrete, specific offense. On other occasions, they were arrested on suspicion of throwing stones, building roadblocks, or displaying Palestinian flags. After detention, prisoners were taken to holding facilities in regional command posts scattered throughout Palestine, and these were crowded, dirty, and unpleasant. Former detainees and at least one soldier recalled that the holding pens often stank of unwashed bodies, defecation, and urine, since multiple prisoners used an open bucket in tightly enclosed spaces. The stench was often so strong that detainees felt they were suffocating.[38] Miriam, an administrative officer responsible in 1988 for tracking West Bank Palestinian detainees, acknowledged that conditions could be difficult, since "we didn't always have a suitable place to keep them [the prisoners] before bringing them to central prisons."[39] The army resorted to using metal storage containers, which in summertime became highly efficient conductors of heat. After one or two weeks in the pens, detainees were screened by investigators; some were sent to more intensive Shabak interrogation, while the rest were taken for quicker questioning sessions with police or military interrogators, sent to batch trials for conviction, or released.

During the first year of the Intifada, prison guards often abused detainees. Itai, a reservist who spent a month guarding prisoners in Gaza City, recalled that

their way of behavior, the soldiers there [in the prison], it was barbaric. You could see it in the way everyone who would go through the place would give people blows, a blow here, a blow there. The group who was supposed to take the guys to the court in Gaza were issued with truncheons. On the

way to the court, they would try their truncheons out on someone and it was … it was something really terrible.

Every night, they would bring in new people … like trash in trash carts. They would pile them up inside the trucks, throw them … on the road, lift them up in a line—they are tied, of course—and then start to make them march.… On the way, what they go through on the way … They get beaten up there, really badly beaten up. I don't even know how to describe those beatings.[40]

In interviews, other detention camp veterans related similar stories.[41]

Had Palestine's ghetto setting not prevented Israel from using more direct methods, prisons might not have assumed so central a role in Israel's coercive repertoire. As is true in today's United States, where prison plays a crucial role in the lives and imagination of poor African American males, incarceration became a central part of the Palestinian male experience. The detention camps, in turn, spawned related evils such as overcrowding, guard abuse, and inter-prisoner disputes.[42] Had the West Bank and Gaza's institutional setting not channeled Israel toward policing, prisons would not have assumed such a central role.

Military Courts and Coercive Interrogations

Palestinians arrested by the military were occasionally imprisoned without trial, but "administrative detention," as it was called, was restricted under both Israeli and international law. Military prosecutors had to prove the detention was necessary, relying often on secret intelligence supplied by the Shabak. Human rights activists protested the secret hearings, saying they violated detainees' legal rights.[43] Time and again activists challenged the authorities' use of secret evidence, making administrative detentions costly and complex affairs. Prison without trial, therefore, could not be used against most of the thousands of Palestinians arrested each month in broad military sweeps. Instead, these had to be charged, tried, and duly sentenced in military court. As a result, the army relied heavily on its military court system to generate convictions and project a lawful image.

Israeli authorities had created a network of military tribunals in army bases throughout the West Bank and Gaza, and judges were often Israeli lawyer reservists.[44] Defendants were represented by Palestinian or, occasionally, Jewish lawyers, while prosecutors were sent by the military's Judge Advocate General's office. Israeli authorities often pointed to the tribunal as a major legitimating device, arguing that its adversarial system

ensured that justice duly guided the Israeli military's relations with Palestinians. Orlee, a military prosecutor, said the courts often tried to protect prisoners' rights. The problem was that Palestinian defense lawyers were dispirited and poorly trained. "It was really absurd," she said, "they didn't even know basic rules." She clamed prisoners suffered as a result of this incompetence.[45] As thousands of Palestinians poured into the military justice system in 1988, however, the use of torture to produce confessions shot up overnight. Israel interrogated some 5,000 Palestinians each year from 1988 to 1993, and many of these were tortured.[46]

Military justice promoted the use of torture for a variety of reasons. Unlike civilian courts in Israel, military prosecutors relied heavily on confessions for conviction, since other evidence was generally unavailable. Palestinians did not volunteer information and material evidence was hard to gather, since most every trip by soldiers to the West Bank and Gaza involved some kind of confrontation. Tribunals, consequently, accepted confessions as evidence for conviction provided there was a "scintilla" of corroborating evidence. As my Human Rights Watch report noted in 1994, "The extraction of confessions under duress, and the acceptance into evidence of such confessions by the military courts, form the backbone of Israel's military justice system.… Because a defendant's signed statement is almost sufficient to convict … interrogators have strong incentives to obtain such a statement."[47] Israeli interrogators applied tremendous pressure on Palestinians to incriminate themselves and others, as there was no other way to satisfy the requirement for a legal trial.

I managed to interview one military policeman who had participated in interrogations during 1988. Omri, a sergeant who spent thirty days of reserve duty in the al-Fara'a detention camp in 1988, recalled interrogating eight to ten Palestinians per day.[48] He said that hundreds of prisoners were brought to al-Fara'a each day by infantry units patrolling the northern West Bank, most of whom were young males suspected of minor offenses. The prisoners were handcuffed, blindfolded, and ordered to wait their turn, immobile, in the central courtyard, while Omri and his colleagues worked with six other police interrogators in special rooms located nearby. Their goal, he recalled, was to get information and a signed confession so that the prisoner's file could be sent on to prosecutors. As Orlee explained, military prosecutors wanted open-andshut cases. She spoke highly of an interrogator known as "Maradona," who had a reputation among Palestinians for abuse. "He would really

do very nice files," she recalled, and would "very much tie up loose ends, not like lots of other [interrogators]." Prosecutorial desire for more detailed confessions, however, translated into more coercive interrogations.

When prisoners wouldn't cooperate, Omri recalled, the policeman made a signal and Omri began to hit suspects with "a club, foot, anything … beatings like I can't describe. Just beating and beating.… We hit them everywhere—head, face, mouth, arms, balls." The only guidance Omri received was to "try and not kill them." Many of the detainees, he said, had "broken arms, legs, teeth." "If the beating didn't help anymore, because he [the prisoner] was about to die," Omri said, and the detainees still did not supply the desired answers, the interrogators poured an astringent liquid on the open wounds. Then, he recalled, "they just screamed and screamed. Screams like I've never heard before." Omri provided uniquely vivid perpetrator testimony, but his claims were supported by other veterans such as Itai, the Gaza City prison guard. When Israeli interrogators were at work Gaza prison, Itai recalled, there were "screams which until today, when I sleep at night, I hear them inside my ears all the time … horrible screams."[49]

Torture is common to most violent conflicts, and there is nothing particularly special about its application in Palestine. It assumed a particularly important role in Israel's ethnic policing repertoire, however, because of constraints imposed by Palestine's ghetto-like conditions. Since soldiers could not kill or deport large numbers of Palestinians, they turned to incarceration. Imprisonment, however, had to be conducted so that it appeared to respect norms of due process. Yet since Palestinian witnesses would not cooperate with military investigations, prosecutors felt obliged to rely on confessions to convict. And because prisoners would not confess voluntarily, interrogators extracted confessions through torture. Ghetto mechanisms of legal oversight and police-style restraint, in other words, created incentives for violence during incarceration and interrogation.

Israel's Beating Policy

Not all Palestinian protestors could be sent to prison, since legal complications made arrest, imprisonment, and conviction a costly investment. As Colonel Eytan explained, "There just wasn't enough room in the jail for all the people we arrested." Or as Efraim, an Israeli soldier who served in the Gaza Strip, noted, soldiers were often reluctant to arrest stone throwers because of the time and bother involved. Suspects

had to be dragged back through Palestinian neighborhoods, and forms had to filled out.[50] Yet the rules also prevented soldiers from simply shooting protestors down, forcing Israeli officers to constantly search for nonlethal techniques. As Colonel Avi recalled, most debates during the first months of the uprising were about how to keep the number of Arab deaths down while still making them suffer. Israel prime minister Yitzhak Rabin had this position in September 1988, noting that Israel's "purpose is to increase the number of [wounded] among those who take part in violent activities but not to kill them.… I am not worried by the increased number of people who got wounded, as long as they were wounded as a result of being involved actively by instigating, organizing and taking part in violent activities."[51]

Lethal force was not prohibited entirely, of course, as Shimon, a former infantry private, observed. He said officers wanted to reduce the number of causualties, but authorized deadly force against Palestinians who covered their faces. These, he said, were considered terrorists, with all that entailed.[52] Yet the cumulative result was clear. Despite Israel's overwhelming firepower, the large number of demonstrators, and constant confrontations, soldiers killed only 204 Palestinians between December 9, 1987, and November 15, 1988, the most intense phase of the uprising. At the same time, however, Israeli troops injured over 20,000 Palestinians.[53]

How did the institutional setting reduce lethal force in practice? At the most general level, military commanders realized that high casualty rates might cause political complications for Israel internationally. Given Palestine's status as an encapsulated enclave, Israel's responsibilities were clear and unambiguous. With human rights scrutiny playing a key role in Israel's international relations, large numbers of Palestinian deaths would be a political liability. A second reason was linked to Israel's ethnic policing infrastructure. As noted above, military actions were controlled and monitored by the army's bureau for Internal Affairs. For reasons of manpower and economy, the bureau decided to limit investigations to cases of lethal force. As Lieutenant Arik, an Internal Affairs officer explained, "There were so many incidents every day, we had no way of investigating everything. We needed to devise a way of reducing the caseload. So we decided to investigate only when there was a death. We investigated the other stuff, beatings and harassment, far less frequently. We just didn't have the manpower."[54] Consequently, Internal Affairs conducted 170 investigations of army-caused deaths between December 9, 1987, and the end of September 1988, a figure roughly equal to the total number

of Palestinians slain by the military.[55] Most veterans were cognizant of this limitation, realizing that as long as they did not kill, their actions were unlikely to be investigated. Internal Affairs inquiries did not lead to severe punishments, but they did complicate soldiers' lives. Overall, the focus on lethal force limited the number of slain Palestinians while generating a search for nonlethal methods. Mass incarceration was complex and unwieldy, so soldiers sought alternatives that were quick and efficient. Soon, this led to the army's policy of beatings.[56]

It seems likely that the notion of physically punishing large numbers of Palestinian demonstrators emerged from the experience of rank-and-file soldiers in the first weeks of the uprising. Frustrated at regulations barring them from shooting demonstrators dead outright, soldiers began using their fists and rifles to hit any Palestinian they could catch. The notion of inflicting maximum pain while avoiding Internal Affairs scrutiny traveled quickly up the hierarchy, however, for it seemed to provide just the solution commanders were looking for. As Colonel Avi noted, the soldiers' assault rifles had a warlike aura, while wooden clubs created a law-and-order image. "When you're with a club," he said. "it's like the police. Police all over the world have clubs; it's like a legitimation of sorts."[57]

On January 19, 1988, the Israeli defense minister warned Palestinians that soldiers would adopt a policy of "force, might and beatings" if they continued to rebel.[58] Although he later qualified the statement, saying he never intended to authorize indiscriminate violence, field troops understood otherwise. Colonel Avi showed me a copy of an order from the army's Central Command dated January 1988, instructing commanders "to beat rioters" (lahakot mitpar'im). As Colonel Yiftach recalled, the orders were "to hit in order to punish. Whoever throws a stone, if you catch him, he can't throw stones anymore."[59] And as Efraim recalled of his time in Gaza. "We used to just beat anyone we wanted.… if anyone ran from us … we grabbed him and beat him."[60] Often, the beating ended right there, but in other cases, it continued, as soldiers crowded around to vent their frustrations on whomever they had caught.

There was considerable ambiguity in the orders, which did not precisely define a beating's modalities. Some officers thought the blows should stop as soon as prisoners were handcuffed, while others viewed the violence as an ongoing process. Many soldiers pulled Palestinians into side streets and savagely beat them there. "You are supposed to hit the prisoner where and when you catch him," one officer explained, but if a crowd gathered to watch, "you have to take him aside" and hit him

there.[61] The violence quickly spiraled out of control. As two Israeli military correspondents wrote,

There were countless instances in which young Arabs were dragged behind walls or deserted buildings and systematically beaten all but senseless.… No sooner had the order gone out than word of excesses, unjustified beatings, even sheer sadism echoed back from the field … before long reports flowed in of soldiers thrashing people in their own homes just for the hell of it. Proof that whole families fell victim to the truncheons was readily observed in the hospitals, where women, children and the elderly were brought in for treatment.[62]

Veterans described how they implemented the beating policy. At first they tried to hit only young males, whom they assumed to be the main source of resistance, but the violence rapidly escalated. The problem, soldiers said, was that they never knew for sure who had thrown stones at them. Chasing suspects down an alleyway, soldiers often happened across a group of Palestinians; not knowing for sure whether these were the guilty ones, they grabbed them and physically punished them anyway. To many soldiers, it seemed that every Palestinian supported the uprising; thus, every Palestinian became a target. A beating's intensity was often shaped by soldiers' levels of stress; the more difficult their day, the more brutal a beating they gave. Intensity also varied by unit when individual groups tried to cultivate a tough image by using more violence than others. Status struggles were also important, as some of the worst violence was done by low-status support troops eager to show front-line colleagues that they too could wield violence.

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