Sunday, April 20, 2008

"Breaking the Silence" Publishes New Booklet of Soldier Testimonies -- Hebron

I wish I could bring you a more cheerful post on the first day of hol ha-moed (intermediate days) of Passover, but what is cheerful about Hebron, the heart of darkness of the Israeli Occupation?

"Breaking the Silence"'s new booklet of soldier testimonies about human rights abuse is well-worth reading. An English translation is found here. Please download the pdf file and send it around to people you know (especially the local branch of the Federation people planning the Israel@60 celebration.)

The launch of the booklet was accompanied by a report on Channel 2 News, that you can watch here. It has been picked up so far by Ynetnews, and the Independent. The Ynetnews piece has the predictably "talkbacks", reactions ranging from surprise, dismay, to justifications and hatemongering. I am always interested in reading the people who are finding this stuff out for the first time and seem genuinely shocked.

The Walla news website reported that anonymous hackers broke into the "Breaking the Silence" website Friday night, wiped out the content, and posted their own criticism of the organization. For the report see here. The website is up and running.

Frankly, most Israelis don't care. The army will say that these are a few bad apples, if they say anything. It will be news for a day. There is always the hope that publicizing these stories will result in other soldiers coming forth and testifying. When BTS has a few thousand testimonies, then that may move something. But I don't think so. The truth is that Israelis don't know what it is to be humiliated, or to be occupied -- they have never had that experience in the sixty years of the State. They know fear, and they know mourning, but they don't know the loss of dignity brought about by having their lives controlled permanently by an enemy army. Some of the older Israelis who came from Europe had a taste of this, but not for 40 years. For the younger Israelis, it is simply the way things are. Except for a few righteous people in Sodom.

One reaction you hear from some solders is, "I was in Hebron for six months, and I never saw or did anything like this." You know what? I don't believe that anymore. I think people may not have seen some of the worst excesses described here. But the problem is that what many soldiers see as normal occupation duty (call it "deterrence" if you like), is illegal according to the rules of military occupation and international convention. When your senses are deadened by being in the military, you don't think about what you are doing till later, if then.

As I have written before, even if one buys the stupid line that the IDF is the most moral army in the world (a self-serving and empty statement that is made only by the IDF and its supporters and by nobody else), then that self-styled "moral army" perpetuates immoralities and war crimes on a daily basis -- because, as some of the more thoughtful talkbackers wrote, the occupation of a civilian population renders it inevitable. You can't have it both ways -- if there is an Occupation, you must be immoral. And since Israel has the longest Occupation in modern times (excluding the Chinese occupation of Tibet), it inevitably has the longest term of immorality as an occupying army -- even if it is not raping and hatcheting the Palestinians.


Anonymous said...

The worst long term effects are on the occupiers, not the occupied. The social fabric of the occupiers is torn almost irreparably.

When the occupied gain their freedom they can can make heroes of those who did brave things out of desperation, and say we need not do this anymore because now we are free.

The occupier must continue to sanctify the occupation, their actions,and their behaviours for to do otherwise opens wounds in a society where most were silently complicit, some acted out their untreated PTSD through irrational militaristic polices, and others who will continue to be deniers and apoligists until forced to do otherwise.

The Biblical observation that the effect on a society these kind of sins may take four generations to undo, shows the wisdom and keen sense of the human condition, that the authors and editors of the Tanakh had.


Ben Bayit said...

Didn't some academic recently "prove" that IDF soldiers are immoral because they DON'T rape Palestinian women?

Jerry Haber said...

Hi Ben,

The short answer to your question is "no". No Israeli researcher has made any such claim. The caricature published on the rightwing websites of Tal Nitzan's masters thesis (which I downloaded but haven't read yet) is silly and not worth responding to.

But we are not talking here about the theories of an Israeli researcher. We are talking about testimonies by the perpetrators themselves. Before a researcher tries to understand these testimonies (and somebody I know is doing that already), one has to confront the data.

Which you haven't.

Ben Bayit said...

Actually I have downloaded Nitzan's thesis and read through bits of it.
Based on what I read I would be hesitant to use the word "caricature" as you did.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your blog and for your articles. You are brilliant.
I read the 97 testimonies. They are poignant, they give a real perspective of what the soldiers and the Palestinians are going through in the occupied terrotories. I think that it' s nessecary to read those testimonies so I' ve posted comments on youtube (on videos involving Breaking the silence), I' ve posted comments asking people to visit your blog and read the testimonies. Peace/ Salam / Shalom.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your blog and for your work. You are brilliant.
I read the 97 testimonies which gave me a real perspective of the situation in the occupied territories...I think that it' s necessary for those soldiers to be heard so I' ve posted comments on youtube ( on videos involving Breaking the silence) in which I ask people to visit your blog and read the testimonies.
Thank you very much. Shalom /Salam.