In the wake of the shameful hiring and firing of Joshua Trevino it would be easy to write off everything that comes out of The Guardian as mere nonsense. That would be the wrong thing to do. Occasionally an article like this one written by Harriet Sherwood comes through, not just as painting a shameful light on the actions of some of our soldiers but doing so with justice.
Breaking the Silence have had a lot of mud thrown at them for a long time. I understand why, they publish the things that the army does that no one wants the public at large to know about. A great deal of what they have published has been scandalous.
Some of the things that are said by the soldiers interviewed most recently by Breaking the Silence in their latest booklet as to the treatment of Palestinian children are very difficult to hear, indeed I had to absolutely force myself to watch the video interview and read through the entire article as the content was simply so tough to get through. Comments such as the following about a Palestinian child do not make for easy reading:
“I remember hearing him shitting his pants … I also remember some other time when someone pissed in his pants. I just became so indifferent to it, I couldn’t care less. I heard him do it, I witnessed his embarrassment. I also smelled it. But I didn’t care,”
These are not testimonies to be dismissed as the words of left wing activists or self hating Jews. They are the words of well trained soldiers whose day to day work of enforcing the occupation made them sick to the stomach. Now I know that there is a debate amongst the readers of articles in the TOI as to whether there is even an occupation at all and that legal terms fly this way and that voiced by those who argue in both directions.
I argue that, for me, being responsible for whether kids go to school, for whether people are able to go to work every day and for enforcing a curfew is certainly the meat of occupation regardless of which particular UN guideline or courtroom small print you choose to refer to. Many soldiers lose heart spending years in the West Bank enforcing the occupation they feel that a great deal of what they do simply doesn’t achieve anything of value for our country.
We do it because we have faith on our commanders and in our government and we do it because we are loyal soldiers in the Israeli Defence Force. Then we get out of the army and we reflect on what we have done and we ask ourselves whether what we did actually helped anyone. We gave the benefit of the doubt to the army when we were carrying out our orders and now that we are no longer in uniform most of the time we gain the perspective to look back and ask the tough questions and feel the full range of emotions that we refused to allow ourselves to feel when wearing the green.
And this is my conflict, the 2 years I served in the IDF are the proudest of my life. In those 2 years I put my own needs, my own life on hold and became a serial number, a sandbag to be moved around and used in the service of my country, I followed my orders to the best of my ability, I made friends who to this day are the people I cherish the most and yet if I am 100% honest with myself I know that a lot of things that happened in the territories were beyond the pale, were unnecessarily hurtful to Palestinians and didn’t make the country any safer for their imposition. At this point in my life my compromise I have made is to say what I feel for 11 months of the year and put on my uniform and do as I am told for the one month that the State asks of me. Perhaps that is hypocritical but that’s the way it is.
When you read the testimony (and I hope that you do) don’t simply dismiss these actions as necessary for the defence of the country because beating up a Palestinian girl on her way to her exams is not necessary for the protection of the country. Don’t hide from the truths that are spoken in the testimony accept them for the indictment of the occupation that they are and understand that the people living under Israeli military rule are at the mercy of the IDF and the IDF often has none. Occupation breeds brutality and only by ending it can we free ourselves of the necessity of dirtying our hands of the excesses of power. Don’t ignore Breaking the Silence, don’t dismiss them, listen to what these soldiers of ours our telling you and understand that not everything can simply be justified as saving Israeli lives!