Friday, January 29, 2010

YNET: Breaking the Silence Publishes Female Soldiers Testimonies of Abuse of Palestinians in Territories

YNET just published an exclusive report here: For the first time, the Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence, composed of ex-IDF veterans, is publishing a booklet of women soldiers' testimonies of systematic humiliation, arbitrary violence, theft, and cover-up of soldiers serving in the West Bank.

If you understand Hebrew, you should go to the website and hear the testimonies – the voices have been distorted to protect the anonymity of the soldiers.

With the world focusing on Israel's response to the Goldstone Report and its Gaza operations, Breaking the Silence reminds us that the violation of Palestinian rights in the Occupied Territories is a 24/7 affair.

But what is interesting about the soldiers' testimonies is that they shed a light on the unique feature of the female humiliation of Palestinians. One soldier testifies:

Female combatants [lohamot -- JH] need to prove more, also out in the field. A female combatant who is a "hitter" is a serious combatant. When I arrived somebody with me, who had arrived earlier, she was, wallah – everybody spoke about how she was a "cannon", wallah, since she humiliated Arabs without a problem. That was the measure. "You have to see here, how she humiliates them, she slaps them around, wyy, what slaps she gives them." They spoke freely about that.

YNET reports that the booklet contains more than 50 testimonies, and in addition YNET received some unpublished testimonies. Once again we read about how Palestinian men , women and children who are rounded up in areas that they are forbidden to enter without a permit are forced to sing the Border Police ditty that made news a few months ago. "The humiliation is like the hazing of IDF recruits, only much worse. If anybody laughs or decides to laugh, then that person is punched…This can go on for hours; it depends on how bored the soldiers are. .."

There is another testimony about a Palestinian kid who would harass soldiers, throwing rocks, and he managed to cause soldier once to fall out of his position and break his leg. "I don't know who or how, but two of our soldiers forced him into a jeep, and two weeks later, the kid was walking around with casts on both hands and feet. They talked about it a lot in the company, how they sat him down and broke his hand on the chair, just broke his hand on the chair.

Another Border Control Policewoman about arbitrary violence against little children:

"We seized a five year old kid..don't remember what about…we drove him back to the [Palestinian controlled] territories. They picked him up, "bent him" here and there, and put him on the jeep. The kid was crying, and the border policeman next to me said, "What are you crying for?" and started to laugh at him. At last the kid smiled, and then, wow, the policeman punched him hard in the stomach, wallah, that was an explosion that I wouldn't have given to a strong man….and why? "You won't laugh in my face!'

There is testimony of Palestinian women being slapped around, both my male and female soldiers. And testimony of bored soldiers reporting that stones were being thrown so they could go out and beat up people.

There are stories of vandalism and looting, much of it petty, humiliating stuff, like soldiers eating from Palestinians food at checkpoint. And then there are stories of a "light finger on a the trigger" among the border police.

Most interesting is the awareness of the soldiers that their being women in uniform was itself difficult for the Palestinians to digest. One border policewoman tells,

"I told him, "Come to me, what are you afraid of me?...And when he got close I kicked him the testicles…Later we took him to the police station and I said to myself, "Wyyy, I am really in for it, now". He could have filed a complaint against me. He didn't say a word. "What will I say? That a girl beat me up?" He could have said something but Barukh ha-Shem, three years later I didn't get anything about it, and nobody knows anything about it.

    Interviewer: What was the feeling you felt at that moment?

Soldier: Power, strength, that I couldn't have gotten any other way….I told them to sit down, and I saw that this guy didn't look at me. I said to myself, it doesn't make sense that a girl who gives her all, and is worth more than a couple of guys, should be laughed at in this way, that you think that I am not able…

    Interviewer: Today, three years later, would you do things differently.

Soldier: I would change the system, which is fundamentally fucked up. The whole way things are run. That's not right, I don't know how I would have…I don't think I acted the right way at that point. But that's what I had to do, the reality forced me to do it.

Interviewer: You are saying that the soldiers in the field aren't problematic, but the surrounding situation.

    Soldier: Yeah, the whole situation is problematic.

More on the story in the coming days.



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