[[Breaking The Silence is an organization of veteran combatants who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada, and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories. They endeavor to stimulate public debate about the price paid for a reality in which young soldiers face a civilian population on a daily basis, and are engaged in the control of that populationâ€™s everyday life. Their work aims to bring an end to the occupation.]]
Rank: First Sergeant
Unit: Nahal, 50th Battalion
Area: Nablus area
Can you expand on the issue of â€˜red lines?â€™ What is the guideline?
When you see the map of the red lines, your whole concept changes, because the area looks as if itâ€™s [full of] 99% Palestinians, with something like three small settlements. But when you suddenly look at it, even zooming out, at the whole Samaria area, you understand that Palestinians are actually banned from entering a huge chunk of it, they canâ€™t hang around there. Around every such settlement thereâ€™s a circle, a radius of one kilometer, a huge area youâ€™re not allowed to enter if youâ€™re Palestinian. Now this area is really uncultivated, but I donâ€™t know what it would be, if Palestinians were allowed to enter it.
And can the settlers enter?
Yes, yes. You take the settlement as the center, draw a radius, a circle around it, and thatâ€™s the area, that, like, Palestinians arenâ€™t allowed to approach settlements, theyâ€™re forbidden to arrive at the settlement fence, they have to stop further away.
Is there any difference, from this aspect, between a settlement and an [illegal] outpost?
Is such a perimeter defined around, West Tapuach, for example?
If the idea is to create a sort of security zone, then the moment the settlers are allowed to enter, it sorts of defeats the whole purpose.
Yes, itâ€™s a unilateral buffer zone, and that, more or less, is the story of West Tapuach. West Tapuach is in the Tapuach buffer zone, so settlers can easily come there. The moment they built an outpost, there was a need to enlarge the buffer zone, around West Tapuach as well, and thatâ€™s how these zones are created, that you can sort of hop through them to the hills. On the terrain we donâ€™t see this line, I mean we donâ€™t know, and when we arrive we always expel them [the Palestinians]. If heâ€™s really close, then we can already try to arrest him, to interrogate him. Usually that doesnâ€™t happen. Usually weâ€™re informed about someone who is pretty far away from the settlement.
Can you tell us the distance, more or less?
500 meters. Thatâ€™s the area that we drive them away, but donâ€™t treat them as suspects. We drive up to the guy and expel him.
And the Palestinians that did approach, who were they?
Very often itâ€™s adult men, even old men. A man who drives his car in the area, on his way to an olive grove, but itâ€™s an olive grove heâ€™s not allowed to enter, stuff like that.
There are olive groves within the red area?
Itâ€™s an area that was probably harvested in the past, it has about six trees here and there. An area with olive trees, but not ordered like an olive grove. Many times they come there with a feeling that itâ€™s their land, that they want to be there, not necessarily in the harvest season. We donâ€™t arrive there on our initiative, if the civilian security coordinator (CSC, a civilian settler employed by the Israeli Ministry of Defense to oversee settlement security detail) saw something, or someone called the CSC, then weâ€™ll come, but itâ€™s not really an area we try to keep empty.
And did it ever happen that you came and saw and said: no, heâ€™s not close enough and we donâ€™t have to expel him from here?
Youâ€™ll always tell him to go?
Yes, because itâ€™s conceived as a very minor act. We donâ€™t arrest him, we just tell him to go away.
(Edited for the IMEMC by c h r i s @ i m e m c .o r g, reposted with permission from the publisher.)
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Chris Carlson is a student of religion at Mount Mercy University, United States, and has been a regular volunteer with the IMEMC since 2013. He assisted in providing extensive coverage of the 2014 Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip and continues, into the present day, with the issues at hand. He can be reached via email at c h r i s @ i m e m c . o r g.