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The Only Democracy? » Featured, On The Ground Reports » Female Soldiers Break the Silence

Female Soldiers Break the Silence

The organization Breaking the Silence heroically collects testimony from soldiers about crimes committed against Palestinians. They are releasing their first report by female soldiers. It contains an account of a child killed by a rubber bullet to the abdomen, whose death was covered up.

“A female Border Guard detailed to protocol she called ‘dismantling rubber’ – the dismantling of rubber bullets from clusters of three to single bullets, and peeling the rubber off of them. She also said that, despite the clear orders to fire in the air or at the demonstrators’ feet, it was common procedure to fire at the abdomen.

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.”

as well as  routine beating and humiliation of Palestinians, again including children.

Even small children did not escape arbitrary acts of violence, said a Border Guard female officer serving near the separation fence: “We caught a five-year-old…can’t remember what he did…we were taking him back to the territories or something, and the officers just picked him up, slapped him around and put him in the jeep. The kid was crying and the officer next to me said ‘don’t cry’ and started laughing at him. Finally the kid cracked a smile – and suddenly the officer gave him a punch in the stomach. Why? ‘Don’t laugh in my face’ he said.”

The group’s director Dana Golan  also details the particular pressures that the women are under in a sexist military culture.

“We discovered that the girls try to be even more violent and brutal than the boys, just to become one of the guys,”

What’s more, gender is used to humiliate Palestinian men.

“I am a strong and well-built girl, and this is even harder for [Palestinian men] to handle. So one of their ways of coping is to laugh. 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.”

Watch video of another [male] soldier’s testimony:

Hopefully people who do not believe these charges coming from other sources will believe them from Israeli soldiers. Unfortunately, retired Israeli Army officials are already dismissing the report. Former Chief Education Officer Ilan Harari dismisses war crimes committed by soldiers as a nuisance that will always be with us.

“We have a fair and moral army, and the IDF handles and educates on any issue but one must bear in mind that nothing can be fully prevented just as traffic accidents cannot be prevented.”

Retired General Amnon Lipman-Shahak puts the blame on Israeli society as a whole and kids nowadays:

“Look at Israeli society; kids attacking and stabbing each other. I don’t know whether it reflects on the army, but there’s irregular behavior everywhere.”

In fact, forcing people like these female soldiers to commit brutal acts is contributing to a general breakdown in Israeli society, not the other way around.

Written by

JESSE BACON (Philadelphia) is a freelance activist and father. He has a Masters in teaching from Roosevelt University in Chicago. He is an observant progressive Jew, and is trying to be a good ally for Palestinians and all dispossessed peoples, while staying true to the best traditions in Judaism. He visited Israel and Palestine in 1996, 2001, and 2002. He served for three years on the local steering committee of Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago, and one year on the board of Pursue the Peace in Seattle. Read his posts here.

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