Kibbutz Residents Shocked By Member's Beating of Young Arab
Feb. 29, 1988
KIBBUTZ GESHER, Israel (AP) _ Israelis in this communal farm expressed shock Monday over the arrest of one young member in the beating of two Arabs, but they said government policy in the occupied territories placed soldiers in an untenable position.
Sgt. Saguy Harpaz, a Gesher resident, was detained in the communal dining hall Friday night after a CBS News videotape showed that he and three other soldiers beat two bound Arab protesters with rocks for more than half an hour in Nablus.
''People who saw the film were shocked,'' said Catherine Gur, 38, who taught Harpaz in elementary school. ''It was very brutal. He did not act according to the values we impart on our children.''
Ms. Gur and other kibbutz residents held Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin responsible, saying his announced policy of beating Arab rioters instead of shooting them has confused troops.
Ms. Gur said Harpaz, 20, joined the army because of ''an ideal to serve the country and to defend the country.'' But she said Rabin's policy had taught him ''to beat up women and children.''
Harpaz and the other three soldiers were arrested and their deputy unit commander, a captain, was suspended. The four will be tried by a military court. The two Arabs were ordered released.
On Monday, Harpaz was released into the custody of his parents. Wearing his uniform, he sat in the small living room of his parents' garden apartment, drinking coffee. He was surrounded by a dozen relatives and friends.
''I'm happy he's out,'' said his mother, Amalia. ''But I'm angry about what happened to him. He seems to have changed over the past few weeks. It was an unfair responsibility to have been placed on such young shoulders.''
''They make my son into a murderer,'' his father, Yossi, told the Yediot Ahronot newspaper. ''Saguy isn't violent by nature. He grew up in this kibbutz and was educated with values.''
Harpaz's arrest prompted intense soul-searching in Gesher, where 600 Israelis live within view of Jordan 80 miles north of Jerusalem, and in other kibbutzim, which are traditional bastions of liberalism and patriotism.
Kibbutzniks are considered the backbone of the army, with disproportionately large numbers volunteering for combat units and serving as officers.
Kibbutzim were founded on the ideas of equality, self-sacrifice and socialist principles. They have produced many of the country's left-wing leaders.
How Israel quells unrest in the occupied territories ''has become a question for the whole kibbutz society,'' Absorption Minister Yacov Tzur, himself a kibbutznik, said Monday during a meeting of the United Kibbutz Movement.
''We know we are sending our children to do a very difficult task that cannot be compared to anything we did in the past,'' he said.
Former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon accused army leaders of responding to the case with hysteria. He criticized officers who arrested ''a soldier, a fighter, in his kibbutz, in the dinning hall, and took him from the bosom of his family.''
Ms. Gur said six Gesher members serve in the army in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. ''It's hard to speak to them about what they do because they are ashamed, just ashamed,'' she said.
Unlike in the past, many of Gesher's young people are no longer eager to serve, she said.
Added Harpaz's 19-year-old brother, Chen, who will join the army Thursday: ''I have zero motivation. If that's the way the country treats its soldiers, I don't want to be a part of it.''
Ms. Gur said kibbutz education stresses the values of tolerance and acceptance of other ethnic groups. However, she said, the only Arabs most kibbutz children come in contact with are laborers building homes or picking up garbage.
She described Harpaz as an intelligent youth with a ''rough exterior. But underneath he's still quite sensitive, a child.'' She noted that he wrote his final essay in high school on democracy.
Gesher is nestled in rolling hills south of the Sea of Galilee. Its members grow cotton, mine gypsum and produce magnets and ceramic wares.