On an unusually cold January day, hundreds of Palestinians waited to pass through the Hawara checkpoint. Snow dusted the ground, and tempers and patience rubbed raw on both ends of the lines that crept toward the soldiers of the 202nd Paratroops. A camera crew from the army's Education Corps maneuvered around the soldiers and Palestinians, collecting video footage and interviews for a training tape.
"Go home! What's your problem?" shouted the checkpoint commander, a gaunt staff sergeant whose face was partially hidden beneath his helmet. The camera focused on the sergeant -- a Bedouin, rare in the Israeli military -- as he continued yelling in Arabic at an agitated Palestinian man grasping the hand of a small child. "Shut up! Shut up! Go back, go back, everyone go back. No one through -- everyone go back."
The video did not capture the next exchange, but other soldiers at the checkpoint said in interviews that the Palestinian man began screaming at the 23-year-old sergeant. The sergeant handcuffed the man with disposable plastic cuffs and ordered him to sit on the ground.
Suddenly, the camera jerked toward the sergeant. He bashed the Palestinian man in the face with his fist. The man's hysterical wife and two weeping children tried to squeeze between him and the sergeant. The soldier shoved the Palestinian into a hut as the army cameraman followed close behind.
The man's toddler son clung to his father's shirttail until soldiers brushed him away like a fly. The soldier flipped a blanket over the window of the hut, and the camera's audio picked up the Palestinian's muffled cries as the soldier punched him in the stomach.
"For them, you see, they don't have a problem getting beaten up," the sergeant explained before the video camera a short time later. "It's the humiliation in front of all the people, the wife and children. I try to do it so they don't see me, so it's not in front of the people."
Understand the depth of this Israeli officer's perverted conscience: He asserts he is doing his victim a favor by taking him out of public sight to be beaten in private.
Note that the officer, who was found guilty of repeatedly and viciously assaulting Palestinian men for no other reason than to prove what a tough guy he was, was sentenced to a whole six months in prison. That's somewhat better than this settler, who several years ago was fined for killing a Palestinian child.
I know I repeat this ad nauseum, but here I go again: It is preposterous to demand that Palestinians curb terror while these conditions persist.