I recently watched the following fourteen minute film, which was taken from deleted scenes from the longer and (from what I’ve heard) excellent documentary, entitled “Occupation Has No Future.” Here’s the video, and I suggest you watch it:
I was struck by the point made by former members of the IDF, regarding the ways in which sensitive and humanitarian people become incorporated into participating in the actions of a brutal and oppressive occupying force. Thus, one fellow found himself thinking, “It’s better that I go, with my disapproval of the occupation and my humanitarian impulses, than somebody else go who is filled with hate and eager to have a gun in his hands.” However, this fellow also goes through a further awakening: “Even if I’m giving out flowers to women at checkpoints, I’m still standing somewhere, with a gun, ready to kill people, in a place where I absolutely do not belong” (NB: these quotes are my paraphrases).
However, as a friend of mine pointed out, it is interesting to extend this way of thinking from the context of the military occupation of Palestine, to our own context. Instead of thinking about soldiers, it is interesting to carry this trajectory of thought into our reflections upon the (increasingly militarized) police forces that operate in our own cities. In many ways, the police are an occupying force who serve, not justice, but the interests of those who have the power to make laws. Furthermore, just as much of the post-military service discourse in occupied Palestine focuses upon the good moral character and sensitivities of the IDF soldiers, so also much of the reflection upon police forces focuses upon the good moral character and sensitive humanitarian nature of some police officers.
I don’t mean to deny any of that (I personally know some very kind and moral people who went on to become cops), but that focus misses the broader point. The police enforce oppressive social policies. They (sometimes legally, sometimes illegally) act violently towards those who are marginalized within society and towards many of those who try to act in such a way as to bring about more just social arrangements. So, sure, you can be sensitive and be a member of the IDF and, yeah, you can also be kind and be a member of the police. The catch is that, at the end of the day, you are still a part of an occupying force that prioritizes the desires of the elite over the needs of the people.
This is part of the reason why it is fully appropriate to say “fuck the police” (without also meaning, “fuck you, Officer X”).