Designed to humiliate: IDF strip searches

6 Dec

An Israeli police officer and Palestinian women in Hebron, last year

In many aspects of life the lesser details can be as telling as the most eye catching. So it is with those smaller manifestations of racialised oppression in Palestine, in their way just as revealing of the nature of the “Jewish State” as the ongoing genocide in Gaza.

A friend told me the church her sister worships at had organised a visit to ‘The Holy Land’. At a checkpoint their Palestinian guide had been escorted from their bus by armed soldiers who, in view of everyone, subjected her to a full strip search.

This is hearsay at two steps removed but it had me searching on “IDF strip searches”.  I found no comparable accounts. 1 Just this, a month before the October 7 Hamas attacks, in Israel’s liberal daily, Haaretz:

Israel’s Humiliating Practice of Strip-searching Palestinian Women

An Israel Defense Forces unit, which included soldiers from the canine unit and Kiryat Arba police, raided the Ajluni family’s home in Hebron following intelligence about illegal weapons.

According to the IDF Spokesman’s Unit, the search on the night of July 10 uncovered an M16 assault rifle, a magazine, and ammunition. The eldest son, married with three daughters, was arrested. His detention has been extended several times. 2

Twenty-six family members, including 15 children, were gathered into the apartment belonging to a brother, Abdullah, and his wife, Amal. As is usual in such raids, the women and children were separated from the men; they were held in two rooms guarded by armed soldiers.

The soldiers conducted body searches of the men while they were clothed. The female members of the family – the 53-year-old mother, her 17-year-old daughter, and the mother’s three daughters-in-law, all in their 20s – were each taken, separately, into the children’s room. There, according to what they told both B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bari and Haaretz, two armed and masked female soldiers demanded that they strip nude.

Amal, the first who was asked to strip, was forced to do so with her terrified children present in the room. The women said there was also a dog in the room and that when they refused to take off their underwear, the soldiers let him approach and threatened to set him loose.

The IDF Spokesman’s Unit said the dog wasn’t in the room, but didn’t explain why the women had to strip. If they were trying to hide ammunition or a rifle, that could have easily been discovered without touching them, certainly once they were down to their undergarments.

Military raids on Palestinian homes are routine. They happen every night, sometimes to arrest people with weapons or an activist in the popular protests against the settlements, and sometimes for the purposes of gathering information, deterrence, or exercises.

Like in other raids, the Ajluni family was woken up by the sound of banging and shouting, only to discover dozens of armed soldiers, most of them masked. As always, the dogs (at least two) added to the terror, especially for the children. And here, too, the women rushed to cover their nightclothes with their prayer robes, which are easy to don quickly.

It’s rare for soldiers to demand that women strip completely, the B’Tselem researcher said. But in recent months, she added, there have been more such incidents. During the mass searches of homes in Hebron that followed a deadly shooting attack two weeks ago, soldiers came to her home as well.

She, too, was told to strip, even though she wasn’t suspected of weapons possession. It’s clear the demand that women strip in front of armed, masked female soldiers can’t be interpreted as an “operational necessity,” but rather a method of humiliation for its own sake, for the larger purpose of automatic punishment, oppression and intimidation. If there are any actions over which the black flag of illegality flies, this is unquestionably one of them.

I don’t say the above compares, in scale or in kind, with the ongoing mass murder rained down on the Gaza Strip as the whole world watches. Just that “automatic punishment, oppression and intimidation” were assuredly not triggered by the Hamas attacks of October 7. The same goes for “actions over which the black flag of illegality flies”.

An Arab Israeli woman walks past female IDF soldiers


Meanwhile, apropos events in DC re the war on Russia in Ukraine – which for reasons to be set out in an imminent post is going very badly for the true aggressors as Ukraine pays the price in half a million needlessly slain (nice one, Boris) – Simplicius the Thinker has today penned a few words.

  1. Absence of evidence is not, of course, evidence of absence.
  2. In international law that detained son has the “right to resist” an illegally occupying power with an M16 assault rifle or any other means short of prohibited weapons like poison gas. Or the IDF’s white phosphorous. By contrast, and contrary to what Keir Starmer, Rishi Sunak and the equally dreadful Ursula von der Leyen may believe or purport to believe, an illegally occupying power has no “right”, in international law, to self defence.

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