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Soldiers Testify They Posed as Violent Protesters

IDF ploy was to gin up violence, justify crackdown in West Bank village

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Palestinian (?) protesters in Bil'in last month.(Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s been revealed that the Israeli Prison Service’s elite commando force, codename Masada, has sent operatives to dress up as Palestinians and throw stones at Israel Defense Forces soldiers in order to justify escalations of violence at what are supposed to be non-violent, peaceful protests. During the trial of Israeli-Arab Knesset member Muhammad Baraka—who stands accused of obstructing an attempt by Israeli security forces to arrest Palestinian activists during a 2009 West Bank demonstration—Masada officers admitted in court that at least some of the violence attributed to Palestinian protestors was actually perpetrated by them and their men.

The demonstration in question took place in Bil’in, a West Bank village not far from Ramallah and fewer than three miles from the Green Line. In 2004, when Israel began erecting a security fence along the West Bank’s border (roughly), it ran the barrier right down the middle of the village, separating Bil’in from more than 60 percent of its farmland, its chief source of livelihood. The people of Bil’in were understandably angry, and grew livid when the confiscated land was swiftly dotted with cranes building homes and businesses for two neighboring Jewish settlements.

The people of Bil’in made a choice in how they reacted: they appealed to the High Court, which agreed with them. “We were not convinced that it is necessary for security-military reasons to retain the current route that passes on Bili’in’s lands,” wrote Chief Justice Dorit Beinish in 2007. The court ordered that maps be redrawn and the turf restored. The army deliberately dilly-dallied. The court scoffed, again ordering that lands be returned to the people of Bil’in right away. Again, nothing happened.

And so, the citizens of Bil’in took to non-violent resistance. A more reasonable response could not be conceived.

Testifying at Baraka’s trial, Masada’s commander and deputy commander revealed that they and their charges, dressed up as Palestinians, were deployed in order to assist the army in breaking down the demonstrations. To justify the tear gas and the arrests, what was otherwise a peaceful gathering had to be transformed into a riot. And so: some Israeli soldiers attacked other Israeli soldiers to give the army the excuse to arrest Palestinians protesting a move that Israel’s own supreme court deemed illegal. It is a bizarrely apt microcosm of the way in which the occupation endangers Israel and, in fact, its own soldiers.

‘Undercover Israel Combatants Threw Stones at IDF Soldiers in West Bank’ [Haaretz]

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Cool_Romeo says:

“To justify the tear gas and the arrests, what was otherwise a peaceful gathering had to be transformed into a riot. And so: some Israeli soldiers attacked other Israeli soldiers to give the army the excuse to arrest Palestinians protesting a move that Israel’s own supreme court deemed illegal.”

Is there another article that Liebovitz has read that contains the information quoted above?  The Ha’aretz article states that the undercover soldiers threw rocks in the “general direction” of Israeli soldiers, presumably to fit in with the other (non-undercover) protesters.

Where in that article does Liebowitz get any information that an “otherwise . . . peaceful gathering” was “transformed into a riot” by these undercover soldiers? To the contrary, the article states clearly that it was already a riot.

Rather than instigate the rock throwing, the article states that the undercover soldiers acted to identify those Palestinians who were throwing rocks so they could be arrested.

I’m not even sure that this article is evidence of bias by Liebowitz.  It’s much closer to evidence of delusion by Liebowitz.

I’m not sure what journalistic standards Tablet might subscribe to, but how could this piece possibly meet them?

    SamuelNF says:

    Yes, having read the Haaretz article, this piece completely misrepresents the facts.

yevka says:

Hasbara bots are hot on the trot.

    AriShavit says:

    If you’re allowed to have an opinion, other people are too.  Simply because they disagree with you, doesn’t mean they are mouth pieces for some shadowy wing of the Israeli government.  

    take the ad hominem elsewhere.  

yevka says:

Believe it or not.

     Actually, Yevka sound a lot like a bot, and  rather primitive one at that. Yevka posts contain no specific references to the article under discussion – they are basically a string of short, empty and stereotypical “one size fits all” responses.

AriShavit says:

If true, there’s a word for this …. Liel, what’s the plural of shanda?

(and to be clear, i mean doing it, not talking about it.  the latter is, of course, a great thing.)  

yevka says:

Spam is Spam and that is just how I call it my good man.

yevka says:

Richard Nixon had more subtlety than Netanyahu…he was maybe more honest too.

Jacob Arnon says:

This pretty bizarre.

ThatGuyPosting says:

While the possible existence of provocateurs is conceptually viable, there’s no reason to believe they exist based on this ‘article’.  Unless the author has some special knowledge on the subject otherwise unavailable to us based on some other source there’s no basis to consider it any more than some guy’s random opinion and interpretation of events.

The Haaretz article used as a primary source (always a questionable tactic) indicates they threw rocks to blend in with the rioters to maintain their cover in an ongoing riot, not to instigate the riot itself.

    gemel says:

    Liel, based on some articles you have written in Tablet such as this one, you seem to have a hatred for the Israeli government and IDF. 
    You seem willing to misconstrue and outright lie about events to show how bad Israel and the IDF are and how good the Palestinian authorities and Palestinian groups are. 

    Fortunately there are real news reports and other evidence, some of which you even cite – maybe thinking no one else will check on them – which reveal your lies.

liel_leibovitz says:

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commenters on this piece took issue with several of its aspects. In the interest of accuracy, allow me to respond.

First of all,
some commenters pointed out that Massada’s officers admitted to hurling rocks in the direction of the IDF
soldiers, whereas I had written they had hurled
rocks at them. I fail to see a distinction here. A
person, say, shooting in the direction of another person
and killing him may not be punished with the same severity as a premeditated murderer, but he would by no means be found

Second of all, commenters have questioned my
characterization of the undercover rock throwing as intended to turn an
otherwise peaceful demonstration violent in order to arrest key Palestinian
activists. Following the evidence at hand, one can interpret Massada’s
actions according to the unit’s official version — namely that the tactic was
intended to overcome and subdue a violent demonstration. But to believe the
latter, you’d have to believe a few other things as well. First, you’d have to
believe that the demonstrations are indeed violent. If that was the case, there would be a rich
record of arrests and injuries, and news reports of considerable clashes – as was
the case a decade ago, during the second Intifadah, when truly violent
demonstrations led to casualties and required serious IDF deployment. But that
is not the case now. The only reports out of Bil’in are about Palestinian [],
Israeli, and European []
activists killed or seriously injured as a result of the army, operating
against its own rules of conduct, fires projectiles from a very short range.

Second, you’d have to believe that even if there was violence, the IDF was incapable
of otherwise curbing the demonstration, and had to resort to ordering its
supporting forces to dress up as villagers and throw stones at soldiers in
order to somehow breakup the whole thing from the inside. That would be a
perfectly plausible theory, if the IDF didn’t already display a continuous
record of responding to the demonstrations in Bil’in with sheer and blunt
force, as the two above-mentioned links—from 2009 and 2012—reflect.


Finally, I’m not the only one who’s noticed this; as was revealed
in a diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks, an official in the American
Consulate in Jerusalem wrote the State Department in 2009 (,
arguing that an IDF night-time raid on a Bil’in activist’s home “reflects an
escalation of IDF efforts to intimidate Bil’in residents and halt the weekly
anti-barrier demonstrations that have taken place in Bil’in since 2005.”


    מוטי פינסקי says:

    Interesting links you chose to demonstrate your point Mr. Leibovitz

    Here’s a quote from a link you studiously avoided to check out:

    Also attending the protest was Haggai Matar, a contributing writer for the Hebrew-language Maariv newspaper, and a member of the left-wing Gush Shalom [Peace Bloc]. He has refused to enlist in the IDF.

    “Contrary to Palestinian claims that yesterday’s riot in Bil’in was non-violent…approximately 250 rioters had gathered in Bil’in, hurling rocks at security forces, who responded with riot dispersal means,” IDF spokesmen said. “The village area was declared a closed military zone in order to prevent the violent riot from escalating and the entry and exit of the village for residents continued as usual.
    “Similar violent riots occurred this weekend in [five other villages], in which rioters hurled rocks at security forces.” One soldier was lightly wounded from a rock that was hurled at his face.”

    מוטי פינסקי says:

    Here’s another link showing how “non violent” the protests are at Bil’in that Liel Leibovitz would prefer was shelved in deep abeyance lest he have to provide another side to a story he rationalizes as impossible at least since the 2nd intifada:

    It took me a couple of minutes on Google to find this clip. 

littleismail says:

Enough said! I once didn’t care we won this conflict, but now, I’ve forced to side with the Muslims. Good Job Iseral, you lost an Ally

    Daniel Galperin says:

     If Israel lost you as an ally due to this article… then all I can say is good riddance…
    The article has so many faults (the most obvious of which is that it bases all its facts on another article, and completely misinterprets what the article says) that if this alone changed your opinion.. so if this changed your opinion…

maias says:

Regardless of the riot and who threw what at who, the point is there is a Palestinian village whose source of livelihood –  it’s farm land –  is seized and turned into homes for settlers. Does any one have a problem with people trying to defend their land, their source of livelihoods? Other artickes mention the raea where Palestinians have lived in cave dwellings for centuries is being turned into a live firing range.


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Soldiers Testify They Posed as Violent Protesters

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