HEBRON REFLECTION: “Captain, Where Is Your Sense of Decency?”

22 August 2010
HEBRON REFLECTION: “Captain, Where Is Your Sense of Decency?”
By Paulette Schroeder

Backed up by 30 Israeli soldiers and two Israeli policemen, you, Capt.Bassem, cleared the way for your soldiers to weld shut three Palestinian shops on the same site as the Saturday weekly “Open Shuhada St.” Action. Though the shopkeeper who worked these shops had nothing to do with this nonviolent weekly action of the Palestinian activists, you made him “an example” of your intention to forcibly stop this resistance movement. After arresting one international and four Palestinians, one very brutally, you sealed the shops through your final orders to the soldiers.

Captain Bassem, why did you at the last minute before the welding began, decide to shove the shopkeeper’s large cart loaded with Ramadan merchandise into one of the shops to be closed? What entered your spirit? What possessed you to make the suffering of this man more intense on the day before Ramadan, a season of fasting, prayer, almsgiving, visiting family, and sharing happiness and hospitality?  There you stood behind the “strong” row of Israeli soldiers and Border police.  You saw the soldiers preparing to weld one of the shops shut. You eyed the cart standing outside the shops. It was at that moment, despite the cries and  pleas of a CPTer filming the action, that you chose to push the cart roughly behind the doors.  The CPTer insisted she’d retrieve the Ramadan merchandise for the shopkeeper or you could do it, but you used no compassion.  You made the cart inaccessible to the merchant.  With a careless brush of your hands you wiped away any possible kindness or justice. You heard the CPTer’s words:  “Where is your sense of decency?  What has this shopkeeper done to merit this hatefulness?” You had warned the shopkeeper earlier in the afternoon he’d have a half hour to remove his items from his three stores, but actually you gave him two hours before you barreled down on the shops and on the people resisting.  The shopkeeper had done what you had asked him to do.

I watched this all happen, Captain.  I wondered what was going on in your heart.  I had often encountered you on the streets before this day, and most often I observed you as a decent policeman trying to do your job.  This day I saw something so different in you.

This day’s sorrow you cannot now undo. Your decision to bring more pain into the Palestinian people’s lives with such unwarranted cruelty to the demonstrators and to the shopkeeper is paradigmatic of this Israeli Occupation. It kills the soldiers’ spirit and creates psychological difficulties for them after they serve in the West Bank. I wondered if the Occupation is also having such an effect on you. I ask you, and I ask the soldiers:  Is this the sort of future you want to create for Israel, or for yourselves?