The disguised gangster units of the Israeli army (IV)
Haaretz, 20 July 1992.
By: Danny Rubinstein
The damage caused by the Israeli military units operating in an Arab disguise in the Territories is growing all the time. When these units began to operate secretly in the first stage of the Intifada, there were some who doubted their usefulness. Maybe they. were needed at that time to report activists and agitators in mass-demonstrations.
Later the units grew and became an instrument for catching wanted individuals. True, they showed some successes, but the price paid was high. Not only a price of errors and unnecessary victims, not only a moral price that we all pay for the activity of such secret units, but also a price of disrupting normal life in the West Bank and the Gaza [Strip] whose inhabitants have difficulties to return to the routine that marked their life prior to the Intifada.
Since 1967, for over 20 years, the security forces in the. territories operated efficiently without the units in Arab disguise. The Defense Minister and the Chief of Staff should better consider if the time has not come to disband these units who have made for some time headlines in the press in various negative contexts.
The units in Arab disguise create an atmosphere of confusion among the Arab public, without any justification. It is easy to imagine an Arab family in a village, a refugee camp or an urban neighbourhood whom unknown armed persons in civilian clothes wake up in the middle of the night with shouts in Arabic. Many persons In the Territories have weapons by now. There are not only the soldiers and the security services. There are also settlers all of whom are armed, as well as Fatah and Hamas squads and members of other factions. There are also armed gangs of robbers and thieves. All of them frighten the people and nobody likes to open them the door in the middle of the night. Everybody can disguise himself to mislead the inhabitants and many do so. Not only the Israeli soldiers and killer-squads may appear in military uniform. Everything is possible.
And what happens if an Arab just walks and young men in civilian clothes threaten him with a gun? What should he do? In a fraction of a second he must guess if these are soldiers, or members of a terror squad who decided to kill him, or just robbers. According to the guess he has to decide if he should run away, or stop and lift his hands up. An error in the guess might cost him his life. The Israeli army is, of course, aware of these problems and various measures have been taken to prevent errors inherent in the shooting and killing, but stories that are spread in the West Bank and Gaza show that units in Arab disguise make not a few mistakes. The Israeli army has formed the "Mista’aravim" units, in order to sow confusion and mistrust among the public which takes part in the mass uprising. But today, when the West Bank and Gaza are returning to a considerable extent to a relative calm, the authorities’ must not be the cause of rousing fears and anxieties by all kinds of disguised people. The sophisticated secret activity of the security services should be enough.