Sunday, July 19, 2009

Rabbis for Human Rights Launch Gaza Website

After the initial IDF campaign to delegitimize the IDF soldier Gaza testimonies, some of the Israeli human rights groups are speaking out in support of the group behind the controversy, "Breaking the Silence." B'Tselem published its support here, pointing out that the soldiers testimonies were similar to the testimonies taken from Palestinians. Rabbis for Human Rights have launched a Hebrew website with testimonies and calling for an independent investigation. The latter is particularly well-done (yes, I am indeed jealous), and even if you don't read Hebrew you should look at it here

In the meantime, I tried to access the website that Stand With Us announced with such fanfare the other day, the soldiers' testimonies that said that the Gaza operation was all hunky-dory, etc. Only problem is that the website has been down for some time. When I accessed the site that was in my cache from the other day, I saw – lo and behold – most of the testimonies had nothing to do with Gaza! Some were three years old!

So this is my thinking: somebody in the Stand With Us organization got caught with his or her pants down when the BtS testimonies came out. They rushed to do damage control by putting up mostly old testimonies. Now their site is down while they are trying to get new testimonies.

Why didn't they ask me? I could have given them testimonies from soldiers who did not experience what the BtS soldier testimonies experienced. The vast majority of the soldiers serving in the IDF see no moral dilemmas arising, or if they do, they say that it is not of Israel's making. Just like the Vietnam Vets against the War inspired a counter-organization, so too Breaking the Silence. And what is wrong with hearing those guys' testimonies.

The problem with the loonies of the left and the right is that the former say that everything Israel does is wrong and the latter say that nothing Israel does is wrong. Now what serious person is going to believe that? That is what is so arresting about the BtS Soldiers Testimonies. Most of them don't just say that what the IDF is wrong; many of them see a certain complexity. But obviously, if these soldiers went to Breaking the Silence, they had something on their mind that they wanted to say.

And that's the main difference between the Breaking the Silence testimonies and the other group's testimonies (when they get their act together and post them.) The latter is a reaction to the former, but the former is a reaction of the Gaza Operation. People are asking why it took six months for BtS to publish testimonies. They should be asking why Soldiers Speak Out took six months and a few days ((whenever they get their act together))

It's not as if people didn't know about the IDF war crimes in real time.

Another day, another testimony. No testimonies on Shabbat, because no mourning is allowed.



In primary searches for weapons, we go in and then suddenly a guy opens a cupboard, sees china and begins to throw it all on the floor. There are such cases, people who did this sort of thing. it's the kind of guys who talk about having to really show it to the Arabs, that they have less of a regard for family belongings. Little things, but not as extreme as burning things or throwing stuff out the windows. Little things.


Did this stop?


It stopped and then began again. Writing on the walls.


What would be written there?


"How long yet?" or stuff about the platoon, or "We'll show those terrorists."


What causes this, do you think? After all, it wasn't just one soldier in every battalion.


Writing on walls doesn't stem from hating Arabs that much, but from the fact that you're a soldier – you write


But you're still inside someone's home.


That's right. You need to think about that in order not to do it. But you don't feel it. Take for example the house we were in – it was abandoned and you go about it as if you own it. You break floor tiles to make sand bags, you break stuff to prepare an outpost. it becomes. You don't think about this at all. You don't consider this a home of a family that will be back.


Did you use their belongings? Are there rules for entering such a house?


There's a general instruction not to touch the family's gear, not to sit on their sofas and so on. But one disregards this. You're in a house and you enter without a sleeping bag, at most you have a warmer shirt and neck warmer, and it's cold at night. So you use mattresses and blankets that are there.


Where do you think this all originates? You find it wrong to smash china, but you talked about people eager to do this, or to leave inscriptions on the walls. What do you think motivates this?


it's the heat of operation, as well as racism. Those who smashed stuff did it because it belonged to Arabs, as well as because of the general army atmosphere. You're in your own shit and writing on a wall doesn't seem so terrible to you. if I was the guy who came back to his own house and saw the wall with the writing, I would be a lot more upset about the fact that my whole orchard was gone. This was an operational need – to raze the area and prevent infiltration of Qassam launching crews. in the midst of all of this, the other stuff doesn't look that bad.



Was there a lot of destruction around? What was destroyed?


Mainly orchards. Houses – some were demolished by D-9s, like the part in (the film) Waltz with Bashir where the tank moves backwards and crashes into a house? Same thing happened to 'our' house with a D-9 bulldozer. It made a hole in the first floor, and you also saw results of the previous shelling.


The D-9s were working around the clock? Yes, nearly.


What did they raze?


First of all, the orchards. then houses too, nearby, to open routes, to prevent shelter in the whole immediate area of the house we were in. The D-9 clears a path for the heavy ApCs, a path that did not exist before. there were orchards and hothouses there once. next to our house, at the edge of the neighborhood,


The bulldozer created an earth mound so that when you came out, you couldn't be fired at from the distant houses. They actually kept changing the terrain.




Margaret said...

Motivation: "it's the heat of operation, as well as racism.
This was an operational need – to raze the area and prevent infiltration of Qassam launching crews. in the midst of all of this, the other stuff doesn't look that bad.

An operational need, perceived as necessary to the defense of Israel. Whereas the need to defend Israel is perceived by others as arising from the inequality inherent in Israel's structural privileging of one group over another.

Which takes me back to questions about "just" war. Most wars now are justified as preventive. Yet still they result in invasion of other countries and usually end in the exploitation of the losers by the winners.

Might there be an inherent contradiction between the idea of equal rights being universal and the idea that individuals need nations to defend their rights as individuals?

Anonymous said...

Israeli soldiers need to learn from Hamas soldiers:
1. wear masks
2. train slow children to be suicide bombers
3. shoot guns at weddings and funerals
4. shoot from behind children throwing rocks

fiddler said...

The Stand With Us testimonies are entirely missing the point. I'll accept even without formal evidence that there were soldiers who did not commit war crimes in Gaza. So what? In what way does this disprove that some other soldiers did commit crimes?

Jerry Haber said...


You forgot number 5.

5. Have a complete disarmament of the IDF to the armament level of Hamas.

Then, if they act like Hamas they will achieve a LOT less death and destruction to the other side than the IDF presently does.

I am sure that many Palestinian will approve of your suggestion.

Margaret said...

"5. Have a complete disarmament of the IDF to the armament level of Hamas."

Oh. Yes!