Impunity and Its Discontents

The IDF spokesman takes a couple of days to comment on our pictures of the Beit Jala incursion, but does call back, good-natured as always. Captain Jacob Dallal thinks the real issue is terminology. "I reject the use of the term 'human shield,' " he says, steering me to the preferred "guides for informational purposes". He points out that the operations we witnessed netted the taxi driver of the Rishon Letzion bombings, and says that the use of civilians to grab suspected terrorists "is reasonable."

"We're living under terrible circumstances here," Dallal says, casually. "What do you want?"

Moshe Nissim's easygoing demeanor earned him the nickname "Kurdi Bear." Last month, Nissim, an army reservist, gave an interview to the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronoth, in which he recalled his experience operating a bulldozer in the Jenin refugee camp. He told the paper that after placing the flag of his soccer team, Beitar, atop his American-made Caterpillar D9 bulldozer, he started flattening houses. "When they told me to destroy a house, I took advantage of it and ruined a few more . . . the soldiers warned with a speaker, that the tenants must leave before I come in, but I did not give anyone a chance . . . others may have been more restrained. Or they say they have. Don't believe their stories."

For those unfamiliar with the D9, it is a wonder to behold, sort of the Great White of bulldozers. Manufactured by the Caterpillar company of Peoria, Illinois, it weighs over 50 tons without armor. "D9" is now a fixture in the growing American lexicon of Palestinian teenagers, along with words like "Apache," "Cobra," and "F-sittosh" (F-16). Usually, the Israeli army requires lengthy training before allowing soldiers to operate the D9. Moshe Nissim says he trained on the beast for only two hours.

Nissim says the army brass ordered the D9s out of the camp quickly, lest the international press get a look at them. "Jenin empowered me," says Nissim, who drank whiskey and munched on snacks in order to stay awake while he bulldozed. "I answered to no one."

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