Breaking the silence

Thursday 29 September 2011
popularity : 20%

Exhibition "Breaking the silence" @ Halles de Schaerbeek, 2011 December 1-17


Testimony 15, Hebron [1]

« Eventually you get to the outpost at the end of your patrol, and there’s this lull just before you fall asleep, which is very short, and you call home or your girlfriend and she asks you, “Hey, how are you?” “Okay.” “So what did you do today?” And I don’t know, suddenly you think about everything you did, like an outside observer, and to this day she doesn’t have much of an idea about my service in Hebron, because I simply didn’t know how to tell her what I did that day, or the past week, without feeling ashamed of myself. That’s what I mean when I say that I’m afraid to think what would happen to us if we had stayed there, because this sense of not being able to face myself and tell the person I’m closest to in the world, being unable to tell her what I had done, for me this is the worst discredit. »

Testimony 28, Hebron 

« (…) Thinking back, it’s really bad. Things that I did, things I didn’t do - I have to deal with them. I have to live with them. I’m certainly not proud of it. Even ashamed. Very ashamed, to tell you the truth. It’s not something I see in any kind of positive light.(…) »

BREAKING THE SILENCE

« Breaking the Silence » is an organization of veterans who served in the Israeli army during the Second Intifada (since September 2000), and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to everyday life in the Occupied Territories, a routine situation that is never reflected in the media. [2]

« Breaking the Silence » came into being in March 2004, and has since acquired a special standing for both the public and the media, bringing forth the voices of soldiers who had previously remained silent. The ultimate goal of Breaking the Silence is to stimulate public debate about the moral price that Israeli society as a whole has been paying for a reality in which young soldiers face a civilian population on an everyday basis and control its life.

Hundreds of soldiers of the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) have been interviews. Their testimonies are collected in 8 booklets of about 130 pages each : Soldiers’ testimonies from Hebron (2001-2004), Testimonies from Hebron (2005-2007), Testimonies from Hebron (2008-2010), Testimonies from the South Hebron hills (2000-2008), Testimonies about the Occupation of the Territoires (2000-2010), Testimonies about Operation Cast Lead, Gaza (2009), Women soldiers’ testimonies (2009), Testimonial booklet 2.

Videos have been shot too : http://www.breakingthesilence.org.i...

All of them, testimonies of abuse : bribery, killing, destruction of property, house demolitions, house incursions, human shields, humiliation, looting, diregard of the rules of engagement, settlers’ violence, provocation, collective punishments... The inconceivable becomes routine.

« In contrast to widely held beliefs, the mosaic of testimonies that only continues to expand proves that we are not dealing with a fringe phenomenon that touches only the bad apples of the military, but a gradual erosion of ethics in the society as a whole. »

« All the testimonies we publish undergo meticulous research, including cross-checking facts with additional eye-witnesses and /or archives of other human rights organizations which are also active in the field »(of which B’tselem

« True to our journalistic effort, the identity of our sources is not exposed and remains confidential. »

Here are extracts of testimonies of women who served in various units and roles in the Occupied Territories (between 2000 and 2009), i.e. « 40 women breaking their silence, who join hundreds of soldiers whose testimonies have been published in the past. This booklet is an additional example of the ethical and societal cost of the missions with which the security forces have been charged. »

« These women breaking their silence shed light through their testimonies on how acts that were defined yesterday as “exceptional” become the norms of tomorrow, how Israeli society continues to slide down an ethical slippery slope together with the entire military system. This is an upright stance against the stubborn majority who refuse to know the facts that are created by the extant reality. This is an urgent call to Israeli society and its leaders to wake up and evaluate anew the results of our actions. »

«We are talking about the best of the sons and daughters of Israeli society, sent by that society each and every day to control a civilian population. »

http://www.breakingthesilence.org.i...
http://www.breakingthesilence.org.i...


Extracts of the booklet « Breaking the silence, Women soldiers’ testimonies », organized in subjects

The numbers refer to the numbers of the testimonies in the booklet.

BEING A WOMAN IN THE ARMY

1. Somehow, a female combatant has to prove herself more, on the ground too. Again, a female combatant who can lash out is a serious fighter. Capable. A ball-breaker. There was one with me (…) – wow, everyone talked about what grit she had, because she could humiliate Arabs without batting an eyelash. That was the thing to do.

50. (…) we were very busy looking out for ourselves, we had no time left to look out for others. (…) girls trying to survive this situation (…) In my unit (…) there was also this very sexual atmosphere and that was very heavy. (…) I keep saying that I had to fight more on base in than out on the ground (…) All the time I had to protect myself so I had not too much energy left to protect others (…) At first when I just got out of the army it was mainly: I’m out, I’m out of there and I didn’t let them win. I constantly had that feeling they really tried to show me I wasn’t up to it.

CONDITIONING THE SOLDIERS

13. (…) There’s a whole thing about getting to know the region and its history in order to motivate the soldier, to make him realize what he’s fighting for. Personally for me that was the toughest issue, and I also had quite a few run-ins with my superior officer. For example, in Gush Etzion there was this guy, (…) he was the ‘ranger’ of sorts in the region, always on the move and followed by a swarm of kids all over the place. He really knows his stuff, and would always take everyone for a visit to the Gush Etzion springs. Anyway, to me he seemed like a real nutcase. And my officer kept saying “Go on, bring the soldiers to so he’ll show them around.” And naturally within ten minutes the tour would become hysterically political (…) He would begin to talk about the cradle of our culture, things like that (…) there was no way you could have a different opinion on these things around them(…) Say, to be against war or against the occupation or something like that. No way.

47. There were roads for Jews and roads for non-Jews. Just for Palestinians.(…) Yes, it seemed reasonable to me. (I realized it wasn’t) when I got out of the army, later, at the university. When I grew up. It’s amazing how different a person you can become during your army service, when you’re told and ordered what to do, and you don’t doubt anything, even if you consider yourself an adult, a curious, politically aware person. This always seemed very reasonable to me. Why not? There’s fear. I didn’t realize how terrible this is, but thought it was so important security-wise.

82. There was a case of a guy who would make someone stand and wait. I was there for four hours that day, no, five hours. The first two hours there was someone he made stand aside, like on the vehicle checking lane, he made him pull over and wouldn’t let him pass. I don’t know why, he was there already before I got there.(…) The soldier was playing this big he-man and running the checkpoint.(…) A 19-year-old with some authority so he got excited.

94. (…) When he arrived he decided that every single evening, without any special reason, we’d fire at the orchards. As soon as it got dark.(…) I never thought about whether anyone worked there. It’s crazy. For me these were orchards. Orchards. What are orchards? Enemy ground. An area we have to fear. I didn’t think that perhaps people worked there.(…) open-fire instructions for now were to shoot at the orchards every night, just in order to – I don’t know – scare them. Warn them. I don’t know why, but to us this sounded surreal and terribly amusing (…) I passed on the instruction to shoot warning shots at the orchards, and the ridiculous part of what I’m saying here is that this was warning fire at nothing. Nothing happened. The time simply came and you’d shoot, that’s what’s so ridiculous.

LACK OF RULES

18. (…) what really bothered me was the degree of disorder. You’re in this absurd situation where first of all, in the briefing you’re not told anything really, it’s just this hollow, minimal briefing – this is the area, and then you go on up to the checkpoint. And then the day’s rumors begin, about alerts (…) everyone is certain of different things, not that they really care (…) say you’re coming from Bethlehem, and you want to cross the checkpoint. Possibly the soldier checking your line will let you through, and the soldier checking the other line will not because the one heard one thing, and the other heard a different instruction. They sit next to each other but there’s no communication between them, and you feel that…(…) All the information gets crossed, and that really drove me out of my mind. It was uncontrollable(…) but it was impossible to get anything, any kind of coherent information.

81. At the checkpoint (…) You do what you please. You talk any way you want, you do whatever you want, you exercise your judgment any way you want. Unless there’s something extraordinary and then of course you get on the radio, but in general you’re your own boss. And that’s a pretty intoxicating feeling for an18 -year-old kid who may have had his head bashed in the bathroom, I don’t know.

86. (…) the open-fire regulations would change every day. They were hard to follow. (…) We get a call from brigade HQ, and we’re told: today the open-fire instructions are to shoot anything that moves, or, today it’s at the feet, or whatever… (…) tens of thousands of Palestinians were barred from entering Israel and people still showed up wanting to get in, to work, so they had to be kept away somehow. And this turned into crowding, and stone-throwing(…) so snipers were called in. I don’t know how far they stood, but they stood there, placed themselves to watch the checkpoint area below, the people. And they kept getting different instructions(…) if you keep changing them every other day, no one really pays them any attention.

88. (…) I’m telling you there were no limits. If there was a line, it was individual. Not something dictated.(…) The rules are just for appearances. There are no rules. There are would-be rules.

RULES DISREGARDED

15. (…) that’s the point, this kid was killed after he took off. He was killed by two bullets while he was already escaping. At that point shooting is not allowed, for he longer constitutes a threat against any movement on this road. And that’s it.

48. These children with their plastic bags, (Palestinian boys trying to get into Israel with bags of toys and various accessories for sale), the soldiers were always stealing their stuff out of the bags. “Go on, empty the bag.”(…)Okay. You could say this is security procedure. They can smuggle arms in those bags. “Okay, empty the bags. Oh, cool, I need some batteries.” And they take them. (…)Toys, atteries, money, cigarettes (…) There was one case that TV Channel 2 happened to be around and filmed some crew doing this. So then the company-(…) scolded us, the whole company. He said: “How could you possibly think you wouldn’t be seen?” Not, how you could possibly do such a thing, what were you thinking… “How could you possibly think you wouldn’t be seen?” (…) very soon everything was back to normal, meaning it was quite all right to slap, hit, humiliate and harass.

76. (…) That’s what I’m saying, there is no personal example.(…) The talks I had with the soldiers in the company, if I heard certain things, when certain problems arose inside the company, with a certain soldier at home, I’d go straight away and speak with the junior officers (…) I can tell you that the commander of the Border Patrol in Hebron at the time cared about human dignity, that it’s really important. But when it comes to facts on the ground, it’s all bullshit. People behaved as they pleased.
(…) Disregarding people, shoving them, cursing them (…) you can talk about human dignity until you’re blue in the face, but in actual fact they only pretend to care, they couldn’t care less du moment.

WORKING CONDITIONS 

1. (…) routine drives you crazy

3. (…) Keeping them (the Palestinians they have arrested) on their feet (…) and there’s that famous Border Patrol rhyme - Wahad hummus, wahad ful, ana bahibbak Mishmar HaGvul (One plate of hummus, one plate of beans, I love you Border Patrol)… They’re made to sing it. Sing and hop. Just like rookies, the kind of hazing stuff in basic training(…) Only much worse. If anyone laughs, or the soldiers decide he’s laughed, he gets punched. Why did you laugh? Boom, a fist. He doesn’t really have to laugh to get that punch. I feel like punching him. Why did you laugh? Boom. (…) It can last for hours. It depends how bored the soldiers are, they can stretch it out for two hours. It’s an eight-hour shift. Got to get through it somehow.

16. (…) « things get boring so let’s invent an incident. (..) Get on the radio and report: Stones have been thrown at me on this street. » And then you detain someone and start questioning him. (..) There was this (Border) policewoman who’d say, « I’m bored, let’s say someone is throwing stones at me ». She’d be asked, who? “I don’t know, some two guys in grey shirts, I didn’t see exactly.” So two guys in grey shirts would be caught, and she’d be asked: “These guys?” Naturally, when they’re caught, they’re beaten up too. “These guys?” “No, I don’t think so.” Well, there you have a whole incident. People got beaten up. And nothing had happened there that day.

19. (…) 8 hours on duty, 8 hours off, and they were tired all the time. In their 8 hours off they’d play
backgammon and watch porn and soaps, and told all kinds of stories (…) I don’t know how true they were, but all kinds of boasting : how one guy threw a shekel coin and the other guy (Palestinian) jumped for that coin. One of the soldiers threw a coin and said to the people with them on the patrol to jump and do all kinds of humiliating things to get that coin (…) They said how the Palestinians would do anything for a shekel, something like that.

53.  I don’t understand how and why the army thinks it can do an effective job if it assigns soldiers to do guard duty in such a frustrating, exhausting and desperate way. (…) I don’t justify it (their violence) for a second, but I think I would go crazy under such circumstances. I can understand, I can imagine why a soldier might fall asleep on guard duty, do drugs on duty, beat people up, go home and beat up the whole world, drive a car like a maniac (…). They’re constantly in this state of tremendous anger that is directed at anything, and desperation and frustration (…) Once I visited some outpost that was facing the sea, it was this sunny day, some Saturday in spring, a charming day and the dunes and the sea were so lovely and they looked just so sad, so terribly sad, they couldn’t understand what they were doing there, didn’t understand what was required of them. They didn’t seem to care too much about the ten families living in that settlement which they were supposed to protect, they only wanted to sleep, to go home.

79. (…) one had to pump up motivation. How do you pump up motivation? The soldiers would be allowed, the way the commanders put it – I sat in on commander briefings about a year into my time there.(…) : Okay, let the soldiers let off some steam. Let them release a little. Let them take the Jeep (…) and harass the Palestinians.

GENERAL ATTITUDE TO THE ARABS

10. I don’t do eight-hour shifts at the checkpoint, I don’t do all of that. (…) I regard myself less as someone who’s really getting burnout from being there so much and is sick of it all(…) You’d
Tell them: Okay they’re Arabs, but still these are humans… Total disrespect. They’d make fun of them, harass them. Nothing specific, just a general dismissing attitude. I don’t know, treating them as if they’re a piece of shit, never mind if it’s a family with children arriving in a car, I mean just wanting to get to their relatives or something. (…)

24. Then we went on to the second house, and I couldn’t understand why we do it this way. And that was the first moment I realized why we are looked at like that, and why we are so hated.
You enter in the most disgusting manner, without a drop of humanity, because the disrespect in the answers the man was given – the wife and children were not even addressed – I mean, no one even looked at them.

62. (…) soldiers trashed stands and stole cell phones(…) Or all kinds of goods when vehicles are inspected (…) There’s a lot of goods and vegetables passed along, so that’s trashed.(…) Or just little humiliations, throwing his ID on the floor so he has to bend down and pick it up. (…) it could be toys, or batteries in packs of 10, not bad. So yes, it’s looting, and for such a kid it’s a lot of money. “What a cool toy, I’ll bring it to my kid sister. Now, beat it!” At times, generosity was at its peak: “Wow, what a toy, you give it to me, I let you in.” (…) They would make fun of these kids. (…) Also, you throw everything on the ground, and “Come on, you got three seconds to gather it all up again. Okay, out with it, once more. (…) if they wouldn’t they’d get slapped around or have their stuff thrown out again and they’d be forced to run off without it.

67. Making them stand facing the wall, such stuff. Like punishments in school. A guy forces a 50-year-old man to stand in the corner, as punishment. Stand there with his face to the wall, looking. It was very common to punish them for things they had done. A guy showed his ID, we’d check on radio, he’s clean, nothing on him. Then we’d start harassing him. Tell him we didn’t get an answer on him, start emptying your pockets, stuff like that, just because the guy pulled a face, rolled his eyes.
Punishment. (…)

75. I don’t know what and how, but I remember that when I got out of the army I still had some two or three IDs in my gear that I hadn’t even noticed…(…) I remember many stories by Border Patrolmen (…) They would come in after a long work day (…) they’d say ‘listen to what we did today’ and told and boasted and raved.(…)They’d patrol the town, someone would annoy them, so they’d bash the hood of his car with their rifle-butt and throw in a concussion grenade, or catch someone, put him on the Jeep, carry him around town, throw him out at the end and beat him up. Or boys who’d thrown stones, they’d take them to… wherever, to the base, tie their hands with plastic shackles, blindfold them, slap them around, dry them out in the sun.(…) I know myself: I didn’t understand what was going on there, at all. Either that or I didn’t want to understand. (…)It was something I felt or thought to be the norm here. Either that or I wasn’t aware enough to say: Okay, this is out of line and I’m going to change it. Or I only cared about my own little corner and my own cup of coffee.

85. They’re addressed in Hebrew. They’re forced to understand Hebrew. You don’t understand me? I’ll hit you.

95. The children cried and were terrified. I mean, you couldn’t miss it. Adults cried too. Sure. To humiliate them. One of our goals was this: I made him cry in front of his child, I made him shit in his pants. (I) saw cases of people soiling their pants (…) Especially at eatings, beating them to a pulp and threats and yelling, where the guy is terrified, especially in front of the kids.

ABUSE, BAD FAITH and LOSS OF MORAL BEARINGS

8. (…) there was this patrol where they detected someone near the fence. (…) they yelled at him to stop and fired. They shot in the air – as they say – shot in the air in the lungs… They chased him within the Israeli zone, near the fence, he jumped over the fence, and they shot and killed him. When he was already inside the Occupied Territories and constituted absolutely no threat. (…) The guys claimed he mounted a bicycle and that’s why hislegs couldn’t be targeted(…) They fitted up their —
version that very moment (…) An investigation was carried out. First they said it was really an unjustified killing. He was a child, about nine years old (…) Eventually the army claimed he was doing something there, like checking escape spots for terrorists. I don’t know how they suddenly came to that conclusion (…) And that was that, the file was closed.

52. At that time, the normal conduct of the people at the regional brigade was a bit odd. For example: the intelligence guys used to photograph terrorists’ bodies, after they were killed, for intelligence purposes. These photos would somehow find their way to all the computers on the base, through the army email, and would serve as screen savers in various computers in the adjutant’s offices and so. Simply pictures of insurgents’ bodies.

59. (…) If there’s video, that’s enough. You watch the video and see the stone-throwing and that’s enough. If there’s no video, someone has to testify. (…) They (the children who were caught) sat outside and waited for whatever was to be done with them. And I went to talk to some Shabak guy (…) He asked me to write down the whole event as it was, (…) Then you have to sign on the dotted line, and finished.(…) But I wasn’t sure of what I’d seen (…) they were walking along home and played around throwing three stones. They didn’t even run away. Then the patrol came (…) I said what I remembered happening and then asked him what happens if that wasn’t what happened. And he said that even if it hadn’t been, they would confess.(…)They were sitting there and it was cold, it was winter in Jerusalem. They were tied, these poor kids. I know they were beaten up.(…) Fist I asked him: What do you mean, they would confess? And he said: They will confess. So I chose not to know.
(…) I didn’t want to hear. I think he was rather eager to talk about it.

65. (…) I do recall how everyone would talk about the loot he’d bring back from the checkpoint.
(…) You could ask more or less anything you wanted and the next day he knew that if he wanted to be let through, he’d have to bring you.(…) and everyone was laughing, smiling about them when they talked. Because it’s boring there, so you laugh it up at the checkpoint(…) The Arabs are the enemy. The more you make them suffer, the better(…) Now, practically speaking, you don’t have an enemy at Erez Crossing, these are only poor people passing through every day and you know them and you see how miserable they are. Their clothes are torn and all they have in that bag are this flatbread and yoghurt, and even that you order him one day to throw away because “we’re on alert today.”(…) I recall a meeting where I asked him (the commander) : Why not let them in with oregano? They all have it, not just this guy. “Forbidden.”(…) So, the soldiers just took out the oregano…(…). Then bring it to the base. Not cool?

78. The officers were a part of this. They were really, like it had nothing to do with them. “We don’t know that.” Like see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing, but it was obvious. Once every few months the company-commander would give this lame speech that he won’t tolerate this and that. But they hardly dealt with this, it wasn’t a topic of discussion at all, and not for lack of incidents(…) Talked about it for two days and that was that, okay, let’s carry on.

84. (…) Someone came in and said: “Hey, look at my loot » (…) I knew that these were prayer-beads. (…) I asked where i twas from. They said: “From the Arabs.” So I say: What do you mean, from the Arabs? What, you bought them? “No, we took them.” But it’s theirs, I said. (…) And I thought, no, that’s not all right.(…) Did they do anything to you, that you took them? “No, we just took them, we always do.”

RELATIONS WITH THE SETTLERS

23. Also, to see those children in Hebron walking by, and to take pride in the fact that they are fraid... I mean, these are kids, and I can recall who they were afraid of. They feared the Israeli kids. (…) they (Jewish settler children) would throw stones at them as they passed by. And their parents would say nothing. (…)And it became routine (…) And their parents hanging out there, these adults would hang out there and say absolutely nothing to the little ones. (…) Since the one was Jewish, and the other Palestinian – (…) I remember saying aloud that it was sort of okay, but thinking to myself, what’s this kid, screwed–up? And the Palestinian had done nothing to him (…) I know this kid’s arents teach him to hate Palestinians. They give him perfect legitimization to throw stones and swear at them.(…) . And you can’t figure out whose side you’re on. I’m a Jewish Israeli soldier, and I’m upposed to be against the Arabs who are my enemies, but I’m here next to the house at the outpost, and I think that they’re wrong. That the Jews are wrong. So wait a minute, no, I have to switch my mind and go on hating Arabs and justifying the Jews. But wait, they’re still not okay, they (the settlers) start this, and we’re here because of them, they make this all happen, they pester them ( the Palestinians) and scare them. It’s all so… (…) why make the switch? Out of loyalty to your own kind. (…)On the one hand you are angry at your own people for being here, at the Jews who live here. On the other hand you also hate the Arabs because they kill your buddies and give you a hard time (…)

83. (In Hebron), You suffocate because you can’t take it any longer. On the one hand you’ve got
these, the Jews because of whom you’re there, protecting them (…) The Jews live there in such conditions, completely surrounded with Palestinians, and we’re there to do it, to watch over them. So on the one hand these are the people who throw eggs and tomatoes at you, curse you and your mother and all, and on the other hand you’ve got that population and you’re supposedly destined to be their enemy. You’re supposed to hate them and you’re somehow expected to navigate between the two.(…) No one wanted to be there (…) what can he do? Nothing. Pass the time until… How ? Nothing, look the other way. Say, okay, do it your way.

UNEASE

5. I do remember not always managing to deal with my own reactions. I knew I was not real, I knew that something here was just not right. If I pass a seated person and spit at him, and call him a terrorist because I’ve decided he’s a terrorist, then something here is just not right (…). I remember having that feeling, but still you get carried away, people encourage you.

7. I don’t think serving anywhere else (Allenby Bridge, border between the West Bank and Jordan) would have changed my views so much and opened my mind to see what really happens, how complicated it really is to be Palestinian. I mean, they have a passport, an emblem, national colors and flag, they have it all – so what are we doing there? I mean, why am I there? I am not Palestinian, why should I be letting them in and out? I mean, the feeling, my presence there in those halls, was like: here I am, dominating you (…) When you realize you’re supposed to seat a young woman or man just like that on a bench for five hours straight, and then release them, for what?

18. Okay, I’m a pretty sensitive person (…) and somehow I can say about myself (…) that somewhere this sensitivity was entirely lost in those two weeks there. It felt like being in a world apart, where I did things which, after getting out of there, I suddenly realized: I mean, I didn’t hit anyone or anything like this, but cases of disrespect that are not like me at all. All those retarded jokes of ‘give me al bidubi’ (expecting the Arabic-speaker to ask ‘what is bidubi,’ in Arabic, ‘shubidubi’) and stuff like that.

37. When you get out of things for a second it just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense and it’s inhuman. When you’re in it all, if you don’t… When you’re inside it’s got to be normal, otherwise you can’t function. (…) I also remember it looked to me like some kind of video game, you’re not really seeing a human being, you see someone running but it doesn’t look like a real person, like it’s not happening(…) I don’t remember anyone except for myself who reacted to this, I never heard anyone talk about it, respond, think, feel. Nothing at all. It’s something I absorbed and seemed wrong to me.

44. What I do remember about this is a kind of detachment from what you usually are in your life. Perhaps these guys, these soldiers whom I saw there who behaved disrespectfully or condescendingly or uncaringly, perhaps at home with their mom they’re angels. Again, I can only say about myself that I experience a kind of emotional barrier when I’m there.

47. (…) the only thing I had in mind was that this person who could have been my father was afraid of me because I was wearing this uniform, because I was there in an army Jeep, and he was willing to give up his livelihood so that we wouldn’t harm him. Like, what could we have done? But apparently he knew very well what we could have done to him, so that’s why he was so upset. It’s followed me for all these years. (…) It made me understand that I’m simply – that there’s this deep dissonance between what I’m told, between the justice that I’m being taught, and what really takes place out there, on the ground. Everyone’s monstrous, they’re all terrorists, all suspects, they have to be checked every last one of them, they must not be treated as our equals (…) And what am I? Here I come, young enough to be his daughter, and he’s so stressed out to see me that he goes all pale and tries to give me fruit, in an attempt to persuade to leave him alone.

63. Some Palestinian was sitting on a chair and I passed by several times. Once I thought: Okay, why is he sitting here for an hour? I feel like spitting at him, at this Arab. And they tell me: Go on, spit at him (…) at first I felt, wow, good for me, I just spat at some terrorist, that’s how I’d call them. And then I recall that afterwards I felt something here was not right (…) and then sometimes you get to thinking, especially say on Holocaust Memorial Day, suddenly you’re thinking, hey, these things were done to us, it’s a human being after all. Eventually as things turned out he was no terrorist anyway, it was a kid who’d hung around too long near the base, so he was caught or something. (…) Slaps. Blindfolded and all. I think that at some point no one even stood watch over him.

79. (…) The soldiers were usually clinically depressed, really. They were in terrible condition. They hated their job, they hated being at the checkpoint, they would get drunk at night just to forget they were there and did everything they could to get away every night, (…) over the fence, just to get away and not be there for a while.

89. (Checkpoints), that’s where I also got a real sense of pride, because you see them (the Palestinians) standing there, waiting, while we get to pass through like nothing, walking around among them, see how they’re strung out there, while we’re free to go. (…) I knew they’d (soldiers) just come back from a mission. I came around and heard they had killed, and got really excited. (…) So I came up to one of the guys and said, asked him: “Did you kill? How many?” And he looked at me sort of startled, and says: “You don’t ask such things. What are you thinking when you say this?” Suddenly it dawned on me, I began to think about it, and realized that all this joking around about the Arabs and this and that, is perhaps a way to cope (…) I recall saying to him, at first: “Why, what’s the problem? Everyone’s into this, no? They joke about it and it’s cool, so why not tell me how many you killed? Why not take pride in it?” (…) And he looks at me: “You don’t talk about it, you don’t ask such questions » (…) I felt really bad, I felt I was out of line asking such a question, and that this is human lives we’re talking about here. Not simply Arab, human beings.

IMPOSSIBILITY TO RESIST

46. I got hysterical, I yelled at them: What are you doing?! (…) The officer told me to be quiet, like ‘don’t interfere.’(…) Everyone tried to hush it up somehow. I wrote a new weekly bulletin on the topic and no one agreedk to pass it on. Not one commander wanted to have it.(…) in no time I was off to officers’ training. (…) I remember that after this whole storm, (…) they really avoided me (…). They made me feel as though I was circumventing authority, as though I was out of line telling them about this (…) It was really difficult. Especially realizing now how small I was, but I felt big. It was very hard. All those feelings there, it wasn’t new, every Saturday night I would cry my heart out at home. (…) Their male-chauvinism, the incessant humiliation, especially this power-play that was on all the time, my feeling that I was the weakest, weirdest creature in the world, and complaining all the time.

56. Listen, today I can tell you I understand this. If the commanders were to give (…) the soldiers legitimacy to think about their action and look for the meaning behind it, I assume many people would be against such actions. (…) When he tells me “You’re turning my men into cunts,” his subtext is this: If you don’t shut up, I’ll lose control. I will no longer be able to command them. They would no longer be combatants. They will no longer be able to carry out missions. (…) What is this ‘what are you feeling’ stuff? (…). We’re not asking questions, it’s not our place to ask questions about what we do (…)”(…) He parrots to me a whole manifest about the role of the army as the arm of the government and all that shit.(…). Clearly we’re not in a position to afford total chaos where anyone who feels like it can come along and ask questions. But it’s absolutely legitimate for them to think about what they’re doing.

73. I just wasn’t able to hit people. I pretended it amused me, the hassling and all. But I constantly tried to find a way to avoid it. Laughing, saying okay guys, now let them go. (…) I didn’t try to come out, I didn’t dare show that I found it a terrible thing to do. ‘I was afraid of) Being ‘dissed.’ (…) There would be a physical threat had I told on them, sure. Once a guy came to me specifically and said: “Listen, if you rat on me, I’ll take you down too.”



[1Breaking the silence : Soldiers’ Testimonies from Hebron 2005-2007, printed in Jerusalem , April 2008: http://www.breakingthesilence.org.i...

[2Breaking the silence : Women Soldiers’ Testimonies, printed in Jerusalem , 2009 : http://www.breakingthesilence.org.i...


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