Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Some Israeli Troops Question Settlements before the Hebron Massacre, Soldiers Complained That Local Settlers Were Rioting, Creating Tensions

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Some Israeli Troops Question Settlements before the Hebron Massacre, Soldiers Complained That Local Settlers Were Rioting, Creating Tensions

Article excerpt

DURING the interim agreement with the Palestinians and for the indefinite future, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) will continue to enforce military rule and safeguard the security of Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Judging from letters that various units of the IDF have written to the Israeli press, to government ministers, and to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin over the past several months, however, some sectors of the Army are having doubts about the logic and justice of their assignment.

"We were told," said a unit of soldiers that wrote to Mr. Rabin after serving in the Gaza Strip, "that our main task would be to `protect settlers against terrorist attacks.' But as things turned out, we were actually required to prevent settlers from attacking the Arab population. Political debates started among us, creating such polarization that it became nearly impossible to function."

In a unit placed at Hebron prior to Baruch Goldstein's Feb. 25 massacre, soldiers circulated a petition to be submitted to the Defense Ministry complaining that Jewish settlers - not Hamas or Palestinians - constantly provoked riots in order to raise tensions in the area. "I felt more secure when turning my back to Arabs than to settlers," an officer told Israeli reporter Amit Gurevitz, who was stationed with the Hebron unit. "Their behavior towards the Arabs is intentionally intended to create provocations," complained another. "They are interested in keeping the area tense, so that no atmosphere of reconciliation will ever occur."

It must be stressed that Israeli soldiers rarely complain so openly about the situation in the territories - both because IDF troops are trained to follow orders and because the Army is itself a cross-section of Israeli society. Only a small number of soldiers refuse to serve in the occupation, on principle. …

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