Written by Oren Ziv | +972 Magazine Oren Ziv | +972 Magazine
Published: 23 February 2024 23 February 2024
International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Rule 52. Pillage is prohibited.
Soldiers describe how stealing Palestinian property has become totally routine in the Gaza war, with minimal pushback from commanders.
Israeli soldiers fighting in Gaza have not been shy about posting videos on social media gleefully documenting their wanton destruction of buildings and humiliation of Palestinian detainees. Some of these clips were even exhibited in South Africa’s presentation at the International Court of Justice last month as evidence of genocide. But there is another war crime being readily documented by Israeli soldiers that has garnered less attention and condemnation despite its prevalence: looting.
In November, the Palestinian singer Hamada Nasrallah was shocked to discover a TikTok of a soldier playing the guitar that his father had bought him 15 years earlier. Other videos uploaded to social media in recent months show Israeli soldiers boasting about finding wristwatches; unboxing someone’s collection of soccer shirts; and stealing rugs, groceries, and jewelry.
In a Facebook group for Israeli women comprising nearly 100,000 users, someone wondered what to do with the “gifts from Gaza” that her partner, a soldier, had brought back for her. Sharing a photo of cosmetic products, she wrote: “Everything is sealed except for one product. Would you use these? And does someone know the products or are they only in Gaza?”
Indeed, since the start of Israel’s ground invasion in late October, soldiers have been taking whatever they can get their hands on from the homes of Palestinians who have been forced to flee. More than an open secret, the phenomenon has been widely — and uncritically — reported in the Israeli media, while rabbis from the Religious Zionist movement have been answering soldiers’ questions about what is permissible to loot according to Jewish law.
Soldiers who returned from fighting in Gaza confirmed to +972 Magazine and Local Call that the phenomenon is ubiquitous, and that for the most part their commanders are allowing it to happen. “People took things — mugs, books, each one the souvenir that does it for him,” said one soldier, who admitted that he himself took a “souvenir” from one of the medical centers that the army occupied.
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