Breaking the Silence exposes humiliation of Palestinians, violence and theft by IDF soldiers

Posted: January 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism, Uncategorized, war | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Anti occupation group Breaking the Silence published a new set of testimonies, this time from female soldiers who served in recent years in the Palestinians territories. These include stories of humiliation, systematic violence, cruelty and theft by IDF soldiers. The Palestinians who were harmed by those acts were innocent civilians, or in the worse cases illegal workers in Israel or stone-throwers. They weren’t suspect of any terrorist activity against Israelis.

You can read some of the testimonies on Ynet (A good word to Israel’s most popular news site for posting the story in English as well. I wonder what people would have said if it was published on mainstream US media). On the Hebrew version of the article, you can also hear one of the testimonies.

Even though we heard such stories before, some of the stuff is not easy to read or listen to. It seems that in some IDF units, hurting Arabs became a way to gain respect and admiration of fellow soldiers. Some female soldiers, suffering from a lower statue to begin with, apparently did their best to show they don’t fall short from men in this field. This comes from one of the testimonies:

“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.”

In some cases, it seems that violence was kept secret from commanders, at least from the officers in charge (though most officers know more of what’s going on with their soldiers than they care to admit). In other cases, commanders took part in the acts:

Another female soldier’s testimony, who served at the Erez checkpoint, indicates how violence was deeply rooted in the daily routine: “There was a procedure in which before you release a Palestinian back into the Strip – you take him inside the tent and beat him.”

That was a procedure?

“Yes, together with the commanders.”

How long did it last?

“Not very long; within 20 minutes they would be back in the base, but the soldiers would stop at the post to drink coffee and smoke cigarettes while the guys from the command post would beat them up.”

This happened with every illegal alien?

“There weren’t that many…it’s not something you do everyday, but sort of a procedure. I don’t know if they strictly enforced it each and every time…it took me a while to realize that if I release an illegal alien on my end, by the time he gets back to Gaza he will go through hell… two or three hours can pass by the time he gets into the Strip. In the case of the kid, it was a whole night. That’s insane, since it’s a ten minute walk. They would stop them on their way; each soldier would give them a ‘pet’, including the commanders.”

One of the worse cases described is that of a child who’s arms and legs were supposedly broken by soldiers. This is hear-say evidence, but even the fact that it was never reported nor investigated teaches us something about what’s going on in the territories.

“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.”

Read the rest here.

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As I said, this is not the first time these kinds of testimonies are published. Personally, I would have rather these soldiers reporting the acts as they happened or refusing to serve in the WB and Gaza altogether, but as I know form my own experience, it is never that simple. Sometimes you don’t fully understand what’s going on, and even if you do, going against your peers – as well as your commanders – in a combat unit is difficult in a way it’s hard even to begin explaining for those who never served.

Altogether, it’s better to talk late than never. It’s especially important given the fact that there are many people – especially Israel’s supporters in the US – who still believe that Palestinians’ lives are basically OK, that the IDF is “the most moral army in the world”, and all this crap. You can go on supporting Israel or thinking that Israel has no choice but to hold on to the territories and keep the siege on Gaza, but at least be honest enough to look at the price of these policies. I would expect Israel’s supporters – if they are really honest – to be the first to listen to the people of Breaking the Silence.

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. This is almost what Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben called “a bare life”, where one is striped out of all protections modern society is supposed to provide him – and it has been going on like this for more than four decades.


11 Comments on “Breaking the Silence exposes humiliation of Palestinians, violence and theft by IDF soldiers”

  1. 1 rick said at 2:26 pm on January 29th, 2010:

    thanks noam for posting, please follow this story. i read some of the comments on ynet, but would be interested in “the public opinion” on this story as nearly everybody serves in the army & I felt the idf is somehow untouchable for many people. is it rejected as leftiest or “self-hating” propaganda or handled as a serious matter to scrutinize the role of parts of the combat-units.

  2. 2 lisoosh said at 8:41 pm on January 29th, 2010:

    Two questions/points.

    1. Is it my imagination or is the level getting worse with time? These kids out there now don’t remember the time, pre-intifada, when the WB and Gaza were far more open than today and there was more interaction between Israelis and Palestinians, no matter how inequal. The dehumanization has been incremental.

    2. Is there a cost to Israeli society internally? There must be. Unhindered violence, the memories, the willingness, don’t go away when the uniform does. Has this inured a younger generation to far more violent acts and stronger anger than their parents experienced?

  3. 3 tamar said at 8:43 am on January 31st, 2010:

    Shocking. It is impossible for me to grow accustomed to knowing and witnessing the horrors. Keep reporting and discussing as you have been doing since you opened this compelling blog.

  4. 4 Michael LeFavour said at 9:17 am on January 31st, 2010:

    1. Is it my imagination or is the level getting worse with time? These kids out there now don’t remember the time, pre-intifada, when the WB and Gaza were far more open than today and there was more interaction between Israelis and Palestinians, no matter how inequal. The dehumanization has been incremental.

    There were no check points at first, no barriers, no fences and less animosity. Does it take rocket science to understand how it has evolved to what we have today, though? Jews brought the grid, plumbing, and infrastructure to the Arabs. Gave women and non-land owning men the first vote in municipal elections ever in their lives. Gave them more freedom than they had ever experienced, built clinics and schools for them, expanded or built 5 major universities where none had existed before, and created a double digit economy when they switched to the shekel that was the envy of the Western world at a time when the global market was spiraling into recession. Apparently not satisfied with the freedom and convenience they would have never had under an East Bank dictatorial monarchy, Arab religious and civic leaders started calling for a war with Jewish infidels. Soon after, mortars were fired into markets, grenades were tossed into homes, buses were blown apart, throats were slit, and Jewish children became the targets of Arab snipers. Around this time curfews were imposed, check points were put in place, and a security barrier went up. All the while a generation of young Jews came of age resenting the check points at every shopping mall, the body scans to get into clubs, the forcing of every man and woman to serve the country for survival itself. If you think about it hard enough, even you might see a connection.

    2. Is there a cost to Israeli society internally? There must be. Unhindered violence, the memories, the willingness, don’t go away when the uniform does. Has this inured a younger generation to far more violent acts and stronger anger than their parents experienced?

    Yes there is a cost. You and I can sit down at a concert together, side by side, but if I poke you in the side throughout the entire show, you will not enjoy it very much, will you? You won’t want to sit next to me again if I intend to ruin your show the next time as well. How long would you put up with me? If you are an Israeli politician, indefinitely. The Arabs will not allow you to live the lives every other peoples on earth take for granted and your own politicians allow it to remain that way because they refuse to do the one thing that will put an end to the perpetual war…they refuse to win. Which makes your ridiculous claims of “unhindered violence” quite bizarre. It is the immoral bankruptcy of the left that allows the innocent to be victimized. What other nation would allow thousands of rockets to be fired onto one of its towns without responding? Name one. If one rocket fell on America from Canada or Mexico the US would demand justice and if none were to be found the US would not hesitate to do whatever it took to put an end to it. Unhindered violence? You make it sound like IDF soldiers are running amok with no moral boundaries, yet it is they who have to follow crippling rules, it is they who must risk their own innocent lives to protect the not so innocent lives of Arab civilians, it is they who are restrained by their commanders from winning, it is they who suffer the impossible dilemma where no matter what they do it will be condemned by useful idiots. No, it is the IDF soldiers who are forced to fight an enemy that promotes and honors “unhindered violence”, violence with no rules, no limitations, and no army of watchdogs waiting like jackals to condemn the tiniest mistake, no legions of pseudo intellectuals crying foul at every imagined slight, no finger pointing, hand wringing, blame ourselves commentators to stain their deserved honor in recognition of the impossible they must do. Yeah, there is a cost. The Arabs force Israel to pay it, sometimes in blood. Unless you feel the Arabs are justified in their war against the Jewish people, what puzzles me is why you add venom to the deep wound Israel suffers by highlighting a negative aspect, when the negative aspect has been forced on your society?

  5. 5 Thomas said at 11:11 am on January 31st, 2010:

    great post, but in agamben’s bare life, the subject may not be killed in religious sacrifice… ironic twist given the clearly racist/religious context of these abuses.

  6. 6 lisoosh said at 11:56 am on January 31st, 2010:

    @ Michael LeFavour

    I lived in Israel both pre and post intifada.
    Please spare me your benevolent dictatorship diatribe. I was looking for a truly informed and serious answer.

  7. 7 Michael LeFavour said at 5:12 pm on February 1st, 2010:

    lisoosh, do you suppose anyone that is not an astronaut has that capability of delivering an informed and serious opinion about the moon or astronomy? You living in Israel for any amount of time means a hole pile of nothing to me. I judge people on their ideas, so save your “I lived there, so I know what I am talking about” tripe for someone that gives a rat’s behind.

    But here is a serious question for you to think about. Did the check points and restrictions come first or did the slit throats and bus bombings come first? it kind of matters in light of getting to the bottom of why we are in the situation we are in now, huh?

  8. 8 lisoosh said at 7:47 pm on February 1st, 2010:

    Michael:

    “the situation we are in now”

    Who’s we? YOU aren’t in any situation. You’re sitting behind your comfortable computer far far away from anything spewing nonsense culled from any website that grabs your attention and happens to agree with your half baked ideology.

    You haven’t presented a single well thought out or remotely relevant idea, just fantasies. You have nothing of substance to respond to.

    Get a real life Michael. Step out into the light. Get the sun on your face. Exercise a little. Meet some real live people. You need it.

  9. 9 Michael LeFavour said at 12:14 pm on February 2nd, 2010:

    lishoosh

    You don’t know a damn thing about me, where I have been, what I know, or what I do, so talk is cheap and cheap talk is typically all ignorant dupes such as yourself have to offer. Take my original post. Are you denying that Israelis brought infrastructure to the Arabs, electrical, plumbing, water, phone? Are you denying that Arab women never had a vote in municipal elections until Jews gave them that freedom? Are you denying that the health and education centers were built by Israelis? Are you denying that the Arab economy saw double digit growth when the Arabs switched to the shekel in the early 70s? Are you denying that there were no check points, no curfews, and little if any restrictions as long as there were no murderous bombings, snipings, and grenade attacks? Do you have some counter argument to the speculation that the US was come down on Canada or Mexico like a sledge hammer if they refused to put an end to criminals firing rockets into American cities from their soil? Do you suppose the US would allow rockets to be fired from any of the Indian Reservations without going in and ending it? Instead of facing reality or dealing with anything I have said you wave you arms around like a dolt and scream foul with the weakest, lamest excuse in the book, as if being in a place makes you an expert on anything about the place. Were you everywhere in Israel? Were you looking down the sights of every IDF rifle every time a trigger has been pulled? You don’t know shit about anything more than what you saw and from the ignorant tripe you have shared with us so far, that is precious little. You lecture me about substance yet haven’t addressed a single statement I have made, not a single one. Get some sun? Step into the light? Cheap words from a roach skittering for the shadows when I arrive. If you tried addressing some of the words I string together ending with one of these…(?)…you might understand how shallow and confused you really are living in the crevasse you think comprises the real world.

    Give it some thought and let me know if you have determined the chronology of events yet? Slit throats, bodies ripped to shreds from TATP and nails, teenagers maimed for life, and grieving mothers or inconveniences like check points and curfews. Which came first?

  10. 10 lucia said at 1:42 pm on February 5th, 2010:

    MLF, the state was crafted by two self serving British aristocrats, wealthy at that, having nothing to do with barrels of rifles or a holocaust, that was just a later convenience. The creation of the state had to do with making sure the Soviet Union did not acquire the wealth and intellectual capacity it was believed the European Jewish population possessed. It was carved out of a region that belonged to an existing population. The biblical argument is spurious, I inhabited this apartment when I was born, now I am grown and want to return to it, so it is lawfully mine, my claim predates yours, get out, I have legal title. And sure the inhabitants are made as hell, and history is a questionable, fickle mistress. It doesn’t matter if the occupiers gave them a few universities, or electricity, or plumbing, they are occupying the land. These generous gifts are a matter of control, witness the blockade and the checkpoints. And you talk of slit throats and explosions, rocks thrown, I’m surprised you didn’t mention the rockets by name and locations where they fell, do you condone what the United States routinely did to their Native population. Perhaps if the United States Government hadn’t systematically emasculated that population so successfully they would be revolting, too. And you shouldn’t really mention the Native population of the United States, they live on reservations, in dire poverty, is this the outcome you suggest for the Palestinians (that is how is becoming ), pretty degrading, isn’t it. Perhaps you could suggest getting them addicted to alcohol and drugs too. I could go on but this is turning into a diatribe. Everyone should be given the opportunity to live peacefully, with water and food, a suitable home, medical access, freedom of movement and choice, education, and employment, and without persecution.

  11. 11 Michael LeFavour said at 4:54 pm on February 8th, 2010:

    lucia,

    The state was crafted by thousands of Jews fulfilling a generational dream. Whether anyone benefited from that or not is irrelevant to the fact that for thousands of years Jews looked towards Jerusalem and desired a chance to be reunited with their homeland.

    Funny how you describe one of the most horrific events in human history as a “convenience”. Have you taken the time to do some self reflection upon why you hate a people so deeply that you would call the deaths of millions convenient? I suggest you think about that for a moment and try to come to your senses.

    The Jewish homeland has been there for thousands of years along with a small Jewish community that managed to hold on while most Jews were thrown out of their homeland. Every corner of the land has a Jewish character to it, from Dan to Beersheba. This pre-dated the Soviet Union and any crack pot conspiracy you dream up. Israel was not carved out of a region that belonged to an existing people. Only 8% of the land was Arab private property and most of that was owned by non-Muslim Arabs living in cities. The Ottoman Sultan owned the majority of the farm land that you and your people leased. The rest of the land was not owned by anyone, like the Negev.

    I have inhabited many “apartments” myself, but since I do not have title to any of them I have no right to return to them, just as you have no right to return to any property you do not own. Miri land is not private property, it was land owned by the Ottoman Sultan and the vast majority of Arabs lived on miri land at the will of the Sultan. You lost nothing and you deserve nothing. Very few Arabs claiming to be Palestinians owned actual mulk land, which is titled private property. Where they can produce title they were compensated more often than not, but the other side of the coin is that as a people you deserve nothing. You went to war with Jews for no reason other than your racism and Islamic bigotry. You had every advantage but lost. There is a price to pay for your aggression against peaceful immigrnats with a legal right to live in their ancestral homeland. I suggest you quit your whining about it and get on with your life like the rest of the millions of people that have suffered far worse than you have.

    You say it doesn’t matter about bringing a good life standard to your people? You can rot in your stone age misery then. Turn off the electricity a Jew provides you, stop allowing Jewish doctors to treat your critically ill, chlorinate your own water, and vaccinate your own children. Jews eradicated polio and measles for you, increased your life expectancy at birth from 54 years in 1970 to 68 years in 1990 and 73 years in 2007, and provided world class prenatal care that gave you an infant mortality rate half that of EU hopeful Turkey. I say, truly divest from the Israelis and from the West. Feed your own people. You are the world’s biggest beggars always with your hands own whining and pleading generosity. And who is to blame for your decision to murder Jewish immigrants instead of welcome them as neighbors? You are. Pay the price for your hatred. I have no sympathy at all for you, none. If I had my way ALL aid would be cut off to you. Maybe if you spent some time actually working or trying to grow food instead of destroying greenhouses given to you free of charge you would spend less time making suicide belts and Qasams.

    Before you get on your high horse about the native Americans you should first ask yourself what happened to the Jews of Medina and 270 million other murdered victims of Islamic genocide, from India to Morocco? For the record, I am part native American and want to know what part of human sacrifice, cannibalism, ritual torture, or slavery you feel was worthy of saving? My tribe is the Kiowa. My ancestors have the dubious honor of having killed more whites than any other tribe, men, women, and children. You see there was no concept of chivalry in war, when a Kiowa went to war it was against everyone, including the young the weak and the sick and since they ranged from Montana to Mexico exactly where were those evil white settlers NOT supposed to live? Was there enough empty unowned land for any more people to use, Europeans, Africans, Asians, and others or do you hold the racist view that since natives crossed the land bridge from Asia first that they should be the only people allowed to live in America? Do you suppose any amount of Kiowa murdering justified an armed response to put an end to their crimes? Here is a news flash for you, the Jews were there first and no Arab ever thought about making Jerusalem the capital when they had it. Only the Jews love that city.

    American Indians today are respected in modern folklore. In my father’s day you told people you were Italian or anything but an Indian because attitudes were different. I have so little native American blood I resemble my pure white Irish mother. But if you want people to respect you, you will have to give them a reason to. Thinking that it is degrading to stand on your own two feet and get on with your lives without begging for aid, all while you have as many children as you possibly can, knowing damn well you can’t feed them without hand outs, and feeling oh so sorry for yourself and the mess you must take responsibility for creating is not going to help you.

    You have a chance to live peacefully. It is ALL your choice, Israel is ready to defend itself and nothing more. Stop killing Jews and the war will end. The land is not yours, nor has it ever been yours. Get over it. Peace is a simple as Arabs doing just that. Get over it. get over it, and move on like all the rest of the peoples in history have done from the Gauls and the Jutes to the Chinese of Taiwan. As to being “given” food, water, a home, medicine, education and a job. Stop the begging. None of those are rights and all the aid you receive has to be taken from someone else and their hard work. Shame on the Arabs calling themselves Palestinians.