[tweetmeme] The Israeli anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence just released a new set of testimonials from retired IDF soldiers about the treatment of Palestinians by the IDF. This most recent set of testimonials focused on female soldiers in the IDF and contain stories of humiliation, dehumanization and cruelty. While you can read some of the testimonials on the English site, all are available in Hebrew as well as an audio. The stories are highly disturbing, however. The stories center on violence against women and children as well as the female soldier’s need to ‘prove’ herself to her male comrades by inflicting more pain.
“A female combat soldier needs to prove more…a female soldier who beats up others is a serious fighter…when I arrived there was another female there with me, she was there before me…everyone spoke of how impressive she is because she humiliates Arabs without any problem. That was the indicator. You have to see her, the way she humiliates, the way she slaps them, wow, she really slapped that guy.”
The testimonials also push the point that the abused Palestinians were not terrorists, but rather ordinary people:
A female Border Guard officer in Jenin spoke of an incident in which a nine-year-old Palestinian, who tried to climb the fence, failed, and fled – was shot to death: “They fired… when he was already in the territories and posed no danger. The hit was in the abdomen area, they claimed he was on a bicycle and so they were unable to hit him in the legs.” But the soldier was most bewildered by what happened next between the four soldiers present: “They immediately got their stories straight… An investigation was carried out, at first they said it was an unjustified killing… In the end they claimed that he was checking out escape routes for terrorists or something… and they closed the case.”…
Unfortunately, that is not the only testimonial that speaks about violence against children:
“I don’t know who or how, but I know that two of our soldiers put him in a jeep, and that two weeks later the kid was walking around with casts on both arms and legs…they talked about it in the unit quite a lot – about how they sat him down and put his hand on the chair and simply broke it right there on the chair.”
The last excerpt was about a boy who had thrown stones at the IDF soldiers. Of course, these are just pieces of the puzzle. Not every IDF soldier participates in this type of behavior, but, then again, for every testimonial given by Breaking the Silence there are thousands more that are not reported.
Richard Silvershein wonders how any Jewish person in Israel, America or around the world can allow such hatred and abuse and calls for the US gov’t to repeal the tax-exempt status from non-profits that support the occupation:
Where does such hate come from? How can it be justified? Even by settlers themselves? And does anyone who seeks to explain this behavior believe that this hate is in the minority in this movement?
And how can any American Jew, even the most extreme, justify giving a dime to support such people. Doing so is a hillul hashem, a desecration of God’s name. Further, how can the U.S. government allow such donations to be tax-deductible? Not in my name. That’s what I say. Barack Obama: this is what your and my taxpayer dollars indirectly subsidize. Stop this now! Repeal the non-profit status of all U.S. funders supporting settler groups.
Noam Sheizaf says that this set of testimonials is more important than the set released after Cast Lead because it demonstrates the brutality of everyday life under the occupation. He also recognizes the bravery of those who spoke out because of the inevitable backlash:
In the face of another smearing campaign which is likely to come, we should also remember that the testifying soldiers have done their service for the same causes the people who go against them now believe in, and that these soldiers have nothing to gain and sometimes much to lose from speaking in public, even as veterans. I think they have earned their right to be heard – in Israel and abroad.
In fact, to me this set of testimonies is even more important than the one Breaking the Silence published regarding operation Cast Lead in Gaza – or at least just as important – because it reveals something of the real nature of the occupation that many people don’t get.
Israel’s occupation is not the most murderous regime today, certainly not in history. It’s the daily pressure on the entire population and the humiliations all Palestinians go through that’s unprecedented, at least today. We are talking about millions of civilians, in roadblocks, on the streets and even in their houses, at the hands 18 years old kids, with no one to appeal to and no law to guard them – and that’s before the settlers come into the picture. In this reality, and with a popular uprising against the occupation in the background, acts like those described in the Breaking the Silence report are almost inevitable.
Philip Weiss reminds us that although these actions are more of a throwback from Eastern European crackdowns under communist regimes, such behavior will never get truly covered in the US:
Ynet has published many of the testimonies, and they’re horrifying/nightmarish, all about the kind of warped psychological/gender power abuse that people talk about in David Hare plays or in Eastern European memoirs. What if these stories of sexualized humiliation were published in the U.S.? (Noam Sheizaf asks). Don’t worry, they won’t be. And they won’t be acted out in Jewish Community Centers, not for another ten years, till the kids take over.
Depressingly, one of Weiss’ commenters point out that the ‘new generation’ will not be coming anytime soon.
There won’t be a ‘new generation’ of any kind. You have to think of every kid who has been inducted into the IDF, and brainwashed with attitudes towards ‘nigger’ Palestinians.
And these are not just a few kids, but every Israeli kid.
The poor treatment of Palestinians is certainly nothing new. Last year the BBC ran an article detailing the IDF’s routine violence towards children. It includes a testimonial from an ex-IDF soldier who now has nightmares of screaming children as well as some from Palestinian children and parents:
Mr Efrati – who left the army five months ago – says the allegations are true:
”I never arrested anyone younger than nine or 10, but 14, 13, 11 for me, they’re still kids. But they’re arrested like adults.
“Every soldier who was in the Occupied Territories can tell you the same story. The first months after I left the army I dreamed about kids all the time. Jewish kids. Arab kids. Screaming.
”Maybe [the kid is] blindfolded for him not to see the base and how we’re working… But I believe maybe we put the blindfold because we don’t want to see his eyes. You don’t want him to look at us – you know, beg us to stop, or cry in front of us. It’s a lot easier if we don’t see his eyes.
”When the kid is sitting there in the base, I didn’t do it, but nobody is thinking of him as a kid, you know – if there is someone blindfolded and handcuffed, he’s probably done something really bad. It’s OK to slap him, it’s OK to spit on him, it’s OK to kick him sometimes. It doesn’t really matter.”…
”He’s a child. His friends are playing in the street and he is in handcuffs. I couldn’t stop crying in court. My heart feels like it’s going to explode.”
The human rights organisation Defence for Children International (DCI) has written a report accusing Israel’s military of what it describes as the systematic and institutionalised ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children by the Israeli authorities.
Gerard Horton is an international lawyer for DCI. He said Mohammad’s Ballasi’s story is a familiar one.
”We see these stories again and again. Israel is a signatory to the UN convention against torture. It’s also a signatory to the UN convention on the rights of the child – and under customary international law, it’s not permissible to mistreat and torture, particularly children, who are obviously more vulnerable than adults.”
I don’t have much to add. The testimonials should speak for themselves. The abuses keep piling up, but are still not reported in the US. The censorship of truth in the US media is truly shameful.