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Breaking the Silence publishes shocking testimonies from women who served Occupation

Philip Weiss

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of the testimonies, and they’re horrifying/nightmarish, all about the kind of warped psychological/gender power abuse that people talk about in David Hare plays or in Eastern European memoirs. What if these stories of sexualized humiliation were published in the U.S.? (Noam Sheizaf asks). Don’t worry, they won’t be. And they won’t be acted out in Jewish Community Centers, not for another ten years, till the kids take over.

What did you do mom when this was happening?

Well honey we didn’t know anything about it.

But that guy in the play says it was all over the internet, on Ynet, and Promised Land–

Well I know, but you know, well, there was a lot of anti-Semitism then, and Israel-bashing. And your father and I– well, we used to read– [Mom breaks down]

What, mom, what did you used to read?

The New York Times–.

Totally inappropriate. Sorry. A few excerpts.

[1] A female Seam Line Border Guard spoke of the chase after illegal aliens: "In half an hour you can catch 30 people without any effort." Then comes the question of what should be done with those who were caught – including women, children, and elderly. "They would have them stand, and there’s the well-known Border Guard song (in Arabic): ‘One hummus, one bean, I love the Border Guard’ – they would make them sing this. Sing, and jump. Just like they do with recruits… The same thing only much worse. And if one of them would laugh, or if they would decide someone was laughing, they would punch him. Why did you laugh? Smack… It could go on for hours, depending on how bored they are. A shift is eight hours long, the times must be passed somehow."…

[2] Was there also abuse of women?

"Yes" [a different] soldier replied. "Slaps, that kind of thing. Mainly slaps."

From men?

"Also. From whoever. It was mainly the female combat soldiers who beat people. There were two who really liked to beat people up. But also men, they had no problem slapping a woman around. If she screamed, they’d say, ‘Shut it,’ with another slap. A routine of violence. There were also those who didn’t take part, but everyone knew it happened."

[3] A female Border Guard officer in Jenin spoke of an incident in which a nine-year-old Palestinian, who tried to climb the fence, failed, and fled – was shot to death: "They fired… when he was already in the territories and posed no danger. The hit was in the abdomen area, they claimed he was on a bicycle and so they were unable to hit him in the legs." But the soldier was most bewildered by what happened next between the four soldiers present: "They immediately got their stories straight… An investigation was carried out, at first they said it was an unjustified killing… In the end they claimed that he was checking out escape routes for terrorists or something… and they closed the case."…

[4] They really just started to laugh at me. The commander looks at me and tells me, ‘What? Are you going to let that slide? Look how he’s laughing at you’.

"And you, as someone who has to salvage your self-respect… I told them to sit down and I told him to come…I told him to come close, I really approached him, as if I was about to kiss him. I told him, ‘Come, come, what are you afraid of? Come to me!’ And I hit him in the balls. I told him, ‘Why aren’t you laughing?’ He was in shock, and then he realized that… not to laugh. It shouldn’t reach such a situation."

You hit him with your knee?

"I hit him in the balls. I took my foot, with my military shoe, and hit him in the balls. I don’t know if you’ve ever been hit in the balls, but it looks like it hurts. He stopped laughing in my face because it hurt him. We then took him to a police station and I said to myself, ‘Wow, I’m really going to get in trouble now.’ He could complain about me and I could receive a complaint at the Military police’s criminal investigation division.

"He didn’t say a word. I was afraid and I said. I was afraid about myself, not about him. But he didn’t say a word. ‘What should I say, that a girl hit me?’ And he could have said, but thank God, three years later I didn’t get anything and no one knows about it."

What did it feel like that moment?

"Power, strength that I should not have achieved this way. But I didn’t brag about it. That’s why I did it that way, one on one. I told them to sit on the side, I saw that he wasn’t looking. I said to myself that it doesn’t make sense that as a girl who gives above and beyond and is worth more than some boys – they should laugh at me like that because I am a girl. Because you think I can’t do it…"

Today, when you look at it three years later, would you have done things differently?

"I would change the system. It’s seriously defective."

Noam Sheizaf writes:

[T]o me this set of testimonies is even more important than the one Breaking the Silence published regarding operation Cast Lead in Gaza – or at least just as important – because it reveals something of the real nature of the occupation that many people don’t get. Israel’s occupation is not the most murderous regime today, certainly not in history. It’s the daily pressure on the entire population and the humiliations all Palestinians go through that’s unprecedented, at least today. We are talking about millions of civilians, in roadblocks, on the streets and even in their houses, at the hands 18 years old kids, with no one to appeal to and no law to guard them – and that’s before the settlers come into the picture. In this reality, and with a popular uprising against the occupation in the background, acts like those described in the Breaking the Silence report are almost inevitable.

Jan. 29, 2010