It is an open secret that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank mocks the notion of Israel being a democracy. Well, unless you are a majority member of the Knesset, of course, or you’re on AIPAC’s payroll, then that would be outrageous news to you.
Criticism of the occupation can be heard from all sorts of people around the world, civilian and official, more notably from the International Court of Justice in The Hague to the World Bank and the UN General Assembly. The generic answer to the allegations usually take the “well, you don’t know what it’s like to be threatened by the Arab world” or the “we won’t let THAT happen to us again” approach, alluding to the Shoa, aka the Holocaust. In summary, people who protest against the occupation of Palestinian lands are labelled outsiders talking from a high horse, or as even outright hating Jews in general.
So it’s particularly refreshing to hear detailed, vivid reports of first-hand experience from people who should really know best: Israeli soldiers occupying the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from 2000-2010. They are young kids doing their military service in order to grant Jewish settlers their boundless freedoms inside and around the settlements, which apparently means humiliating and brutalizing the Palestinian population for little or no reason at all, just to make sure they don’t start to feel at home on their land… or make it past the age of 40. So much most of us know already. But what that looks like in your everyday routine as a soldier of the “Israel Defense Force” comes to life in verbatim interviews with soldiers looking back at their service. If you’re going to believe anyone, it’s probably the people who
committed the murders took part in the operations and pulled the triggers, beat the snot out of elderly villagers and just simply made regular, harmless people’s lives miserable. Because it would be too boring a day without. Take their word for it.
The NY Review of Books article is here.
An advance version of the book of interviews can be found here (pdf).
Read a (relatively harmless) excerpt now…
A patrol in order to beat up Arabs (p.147-149)
unit: Kfir Brigade · location: Hebron year: 2006-2007
There are a lot of incidents. Just all kinds of nonsense that we would do. We would beat up the Arabs all the time, nothing special. Just to pass the time.
Do you remember an incident where you opened fire on Palestinians?
You know how many times it happened, when there would be disturbances and we would open fire?
When you had to, yes, when you had to, when enough came at us – then yes, at the knee, the knees.
You said that you would think about how to heat up the atmosphere all the time.
What does that mean?
You know, we wanted it to be interesting, we would only look for methods to rile up the Arabs a bit, so that we would shoot a lot of rubber bullets, and it would be interesting, and so the time would pass a little faster in Hebron.
Who thought of methods?
You think there was a lack? Soldiers, commanders.
Sitting with the company commander?
What do you mean, company commander? Never, I’m telling you, it would never leave the platoon. The platoon is like state secrets, that’s what we would say. No one knew.
So you sat only with the platoon commander?
What the hell. The platoon commander also didn’t know.
So who sat?
Commanders and a sergeant.
Where did you sit?
In a room. There is the senior room, and the junior room? In the senior room.
So what do you say: “today on patrol we do this and that”?
You plan ahead?
So what would you do?
All kinds of nonsense. We would do a lot, we would say: a patrol for what? A patrol is in order to beat up Arabs. Children, Arabs, all kinds of nonsense.
Who would initiate the patrols?
All kinds of people. The patrol commander wasn’t to know about it.
Sergeants and squad commanders?
Yes, officers are not connected.
They would say: “now we’re going out to…”?
We would know where we were going, we had a briefing before. We would go out on patrol.
The squad commander would come and say: “now we’re going out on patrol”?
You know you are going out on patrol. Again listen, it’s not with every squad commander that you do it, you know with which squad commander you do it.
When a force goes out on a patrol, it’s not by its own choice.
Everyone knows there is a patrol. That’s the mission: to patrol, to protect. We just continued, you know.
What does the company commander say to you when you go out?
What does he say? He also knows it’s going to happen. He also takes, he would choose the people that would go with him. Let’s say, I told you about ***, I would never go out with him, there is no chance in the world he would let me go out with him.
What would happen?
We would go out on patrol, just an example, some kid would look at us, it didn’t seem like a good look to us – he would get slapped.
Who would slap him?
The squad commander, the soldiers