PRESS ALERT AND INVITE: Former Israeli soldier speaks out in S. Africa about Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and the IDF's abuse of Palestinians (Cape Town, 19 & 21 August)
The Cape Town based human rights organization, Open Shuhada Street, will be hosting two public events with Yehuda Shaul - an ex-Israeli soldier, former sergeant in the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and now one of the founders of the Israeli NGO and peace organization called "Breaking the Silence".
Shaul will be speaking on his experience in the IDF as well as on the testimonies of former Israeli soldiers. Testimonies that include harrowing accounts of "closing a Palestinian school, abusing Palestinian civilians at Israeli check-points, evicting and then staying in a Palestinian family’s comandeered home, Israeli soldiers posing for trophy photos with Palestinian corpses". See below this email press alert for extracts from such testimonies of ex-Israeli soldiers who have chosen to speak out on their experiences.
Monday 19 August event with ex-Israeli soldier, Yehuda Shaul
Date: Monday, 19 August
Venue: Central Methodist Church Mission, Corner of Burg and Longmarket Street, Cape Town
Wednesday 21 August event with ex-Israeli soldier, Yehuda Shaul
Date: Wednesday, 21 August
Venue: LS2D, Leslie Social Science Buildingm, University of Cape Town, Cape Town
Yehuda Shaul (29) was born and raised in Jerusalem in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family. After graduating from a Yeshiva high school he served in the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) as commander and platoon sergeant in the 50th battalion of the IDF's Nahal Brigade from 2001 to 2004. In 2004, Yehuda founded "Breaking the Silence" with a group of fellow veterans, where he currently serves as the organization’s Co-Director and Foreign Relations Officer.
"Breaking the Silence" is an Israeli non-governmental and peace organization that records soldiers' testimonies of human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. According to its website
, by publishing Israeli soldiers' accounts, "Breaking the Silence", hopes to force Israeli society to address the reality which it created and face the truth about Israeli abuse towards Palestinians, looting of Palestinian resources, and destruction of Palestinian property that is familiar to virtually all Israeli soldiers. "Breaking the Silence" has recently released a book titled "Our Hash Logic" (available at Exclusive Books http://tinyurl.com/nn83npv
, Kalahari Online http://tinyurl.com/npopty9
and from Amazon.com as a Kindle eBook http://tinyurl.com/nve7lhn
). The book documents ex-Israeli soldiers' testimonies collected from 2000 to 2010. According to The New York Review of Books, it is "one of the most important books on Israel/Palestine in this generation".
Jonathan Dockney, coordinator of Open Shuhada Street and local host of Yehuda Shaul in South Africa commented: "Yehuda's talks will reveal what is so often hidden from view from the public: testimonies from Israeli soldiers themselves of the brutal nature of the Israeli Occupation and IDF. Shaul's talk will reveal that the IDF's core purpose is not defence, but is rather linked to furthering Israeli acquisition of Palestinian land and denying the Palestinians their independence." Khulekani Chiya of BDS South Africa welcomed Yehuda Shaul to South Africa and added that: "Shaul and Breaking the Silence remind us of the brave white anti-apartheid activists who in the 1980s broke rank, joined, for example, the "End Conscription Campaign" and refused to serve in Apartheid's South African Defence Forces (SADF). Shaul and Breaking the Silence also remind us that the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), like Apartheid's South African Defence Forces (SADF), serve no "defence" purpose, only the purpose of maintaining an unjust Israeli regime and its apartheid policies against the indigenous Palestinians. The testimonies from Breaking the Silence further give reason why we should support the indigenous Palestinian people together with their progressive Israeli allies in boycotting Israel until Israel abides to international law, respects human rights and engages in fair negotiations for a just peace similar to what occurred in South Africa."
For background and further information
For comment and/or to arrange interviews with Yehuda Shaul contact:
Jonathan Dockney (Open Shuhada Street): 082 042 6120 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Bruce Baigrie (University of Cape Town PSF): 082 452 3783 / email@example.com
Muhammed Desai (BDS South Africa): 0842119988 / firstname.lastname@example.org
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Breaking the Silence: Former Israeli Defence Force (IDF) soldiers provide written testimonies of Israeli abuse against Palestinians
Ex-Israeli soldier testimony 1:
First week, first time at the [Israeli] checkpoint, at the passage between the Palestinian area and the street where only [Israeli] Jews can go. You need to have a fence. Those guys [the Palestinians], they have to stop, there’s a line, then they [the Palestinians] hand you their ID cards through the fence, you check them, and let them through.
There was this [fellow Israeli soldier] guy with me who…we’d just finished advanced training, got to the assignment and he yells, “Waqif! Stop!” The [Palestinian] man didn’t quite understand and advanced one more step. One extra step, and then he yells again, “Waqif!” and the [Palestinian] man freezes in fear. He didn’t quite understand what the [Israeli] soldier said...So he [my fellow Israeli soldier] decided that because the [Palestinian] guy made this one extra step… they should obey us, therefore he’ll be detained. I said to him [my fellow Israeli soldier], “Listen, what are you doing?” he said, “No, no, don’t argue, at least not in front of them [Palestinians], what are you doing, I’m not going to trust you anymore, you’re not reliable”… Eventually one of the [Israeli] patrol commanders came over, came from up there, and I spoke to him. I said, “Listen, what’s the deal, how long do you want to detain him for?” He [the Israeli patrol commander] said, “Listen, you can do whatever you want [with the Palestinian], whatever you feel like doing. If you feel there’s a problem with what he’s done [the Palestinian], if you feel something’s wrong, even the slightest thing, you can detain him [the Palestinian] for as long as you want.” ...everyone can do whatever they want, it’s like there are no rules, everything is permissible.
Another thing I remember from [being stationed in the Palestinian town of Hebron], something particularly strange, was this so-called “grass widow” procedure, a house the [Israeli] army had taken over and turned into an observation post, the home of a Palestinian family…Not a family of terrorists or anything like that, just a family whose home made a good observation post, so the [Israeli] army evicted them [the Palestinian family] from the house and took it over. Now, when I arrived at this “grass widow”…we stayed there for months, I’m sure the [Palestinian] house was taken over before that, and held long after that. It’s not just the [Palestinian] family who lived in this specific house who were evicted, but also the [Palestinian] people living downstairs were evicted, to keep the area sterile for the [Israeli] army…so conceptually this was a really crazy thing, you’re in somebody’s house, and you climb the stairs of a building, everything is littered with shit, cartridges and glass on the stairs, so you can hear if anyone is approaching...there was also food left behind, there was a TV, we weren’t allowed to turn it on, this would be too much, this would be considered “bad occupation,” using their [the Palestinian family's] electricity…
They [the Israeli Defence Forces] used to send us to do guard-duty near the battalion headquarters, in Harsina. It was Friday night, and the auxiliary company came up against a terrorist cell, the auxiliary company was also stationed in Harsina, they eliminated two terrorists, killed two terrorists. Friday night dinner was, of course, a very happy affair, two terrorists exterminated, it was on the news, well-publicized in the media, the whole base was jumping. As I was leaving dinner, an armored [Israeli] ambulance arrived with the terrorists’ corpses, and the sight which was revealed to me just after this delicious meal, was of two terrorists’ corpses being held up in a standing position by three [Israeli] people who were posing for photographs. Even I was shocked by this sight, I closed my eyes so as not to see and walked away, I really didn’t feel like looking at terrorists’ corpses. I think your judgment gets a little impaired when everyday… when your enemy is an Arab or somebody else who in your eyes… like, you don’t look at him as a person standing in front of you, but as the enemy, and this is the word for him [the Palestinian]: enemy. He is not a dog, he is not some animal, you don’t think of him as inferior, he simply doesn’t count. Period. He [the Palestinian] is not… he is your enemy, and if he’s the enemy, you kill him. And if it’s him that you kill, once you’ve killed him, then it seems that there’s nothing worse you can do to him, but apparently there is.
[Israeli] Army routine during curfew...is simply standing…if you are in a fixed post it means standing there and shouting [at Palestinians], “Waqif, taal jib al hawiyya” [Stop, come give me your ID card] there’s a curfew, go home, this is it more or less it, and saying, “I don’t care, I don’t care. No, no, no,” the word we used the most was “No.” ...a [Palestinian] child arrives, you tell him “Listen, I’ll let you pass now, but do me a favor and go home,” and five minutes later he’s back. Then you tell him, “Listen here, you said you’d go, now get lost,” and two months later, I think it’s enough, you don’t need a year, a month is enough, a week is enough for you to get fed up with this child and with all these people, you are on eight-hour guard duty, and you are so tired, and so bummed, and so burnt out and you don’t give a fuck about any of this shit, and then a [Palestinian] person comes, and you don’t care if he’s old, if he’s a man, a woman, an adult, a kid, you don’t give a damn what species, race, or color he is, he arrives and you tell him “La, ruh `al beit” [No, go home]. You tell him “turn around and go home.” I’m not interested in any excuses, I’m not interested in anything. You want to buy vegetables? What do I care about your vegetables. There’s a curfew? Period. You don’t move. Your house is in the other direction? I don’t care, find another way, you can’t pass from here.
Our job was to stop the Palestinians at… checkpoints and tell them they can’t pass there anymore. Maybe a month ago they could, but now they can’t. And we knew there was another way they could pass, so on the one hand we were not allowed to let them pass, and on the other hand there were all these old [Palestinian] ladies who had to pass to get to their homes, so we’d point in the direction of the opening through which they could pass without us noticing. It was an absurd situation, we couldn’t say “we, the soldiers, did that.” Our [fellow Israeli] officers also knew about this opening. Like, they told us about it. Nobody really cared about it. It made us wonder what we were doing at the…checkpoint. Why was it forbidden [for Palestinians] to pass? It was really a form collective punishment. Any terrorist could know about and pass through the opening. It was just a form of collective punishment. You’re not allowed to pass because you’re not allowed to pass. If you want to commit a terrorist attack, turn right there and then left, but if you do not want to commit a terrorist attack you’ll have to make a very big detour or you won’t get there at all, which was really brilliant …
I was ashamed of myself the day I realized that I simply enjoy the feeling of power. I don’t believe in it: I think this is not the way to do anything to anyone, surely not to someone who has done nothing to you, but you can’t help but enjoy it. People do what you tell them. You know it’s because you carry a weapon. Knowing that if you didn’t have it, and if your fellow [Israeli] soldiers weren’t beside you, they would jump on you, beat the shit out of you, and stab you to death — you begin to enjoy it. Not merely enjoy it, you need it. And then, when someone suddenly says “No” to you, what do you mean no? Where do you draw the chutzpah from, to say no to me? Forget for a moment that I actually think that all those Jews are mad, and I actually want peace and believe we should leave the [Occupied Palestinian] territories, how dare you say no to me? I am the Law! I am the Law here! And then you sort of begin to understand that it makes you feel good.
I remember a very specific situation: I was at a checkpoint, a temporary one, a so-called strangulation checkpoint, it was a very small checkpoint, very intimate, four soldiers, no commanding officer, no protection worthy of the name, a true moonlighting job, blocking the entrance to a [Palestinian] village. From one side a line of [Palestinian] cars wanting to get out, and from the other side a line of cars wanting to pass, a huge line, and suddenly you have a mighty force at the tip of your fingers, as if playing a computer game. I stand there like this, pointing at someone, gesturing to you to do this or that, and you do this or that, the car starts, moves toward me, halts beside me. The next car follows, you signal, it stops. You start playing with them [the Palestinians], like a computer game. You come here, you go there, like this. You barely move, you make them obey the tip of your finger. It’s a mighty feeling. It’s something you don’t experience elsewhere. You know it’s because you have a weapon, you know it’s because you are a soldier, you know all this, but its addictive.
When I realized this … I checked in with myself to see what had happened to me. That’s it. And it was a big bubble that burst. I thought I was immune, that is, how can someone like me, a thinking, articulate, ethical, moral man — things I can attest to about myself without needing anyone else to validate for me. I thought of myself as such. Suddenly, I notice that I’m getting addicted to controlling people.