I grew up in Woodland Hills, Calif., and am spending two years in a high school teaching position in Ramallah on the West Bank.
Recently, I watched from a rooftop in Ramallah as a Palestinian demonstrator was arrested. He was walking peacefully with his captor when a second soldier approached and beat him with a baton. The young man cried, "I am not trying to run away! I am walking with you!" but still, the soldier beat him. I visited a man in the hospital who was shot while walking to work and subsequently beaten for three hours. I also visited a 4-year-old boy who had cuts and bruises on his head and body, which he incurred when soldiers beat him for drawing a "victory" sign on a wall.
These stories are overshadowed by Israeli Defense Force bulletins which in one case denied that soldiers were ordered to beat demonstrators, and in another, ordered soldiers to use "a reasonable amount of force and only while dispersing demonstrators, and not to use force without justification."
What manner of conscience is it which permits a soldier to beat a 4-year-old for any reason? Psychologists have been sent to Gaza to help soldiers whose consciences are perhaps speaking too loudly to "cope mentally with orders to beat people."
Beatings here in Palestine are not new, just more numerous.
Ramallah, West Bank