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MITA'AM - A Review of Literature and Radical Thought, Edited by Yitzhak Laor


STEEPED : In The World of Tea. A Literay anthology



Occupying Hebron

Closing a school, abusing civilians at a check point, following orders, staying in a family's comandeered home, posing for trophy photos with enemy bodies, being the law, enjoying power, feeling ashamed, getting addicted to controlling people, dispersing a funeral, wanting to forget, not caring, the ease in which you actually do whatever you want to do unsupervised, the unbearable lightness of these things that happen. 12,643 words of testimonies

Shovrim Shtika - Breaking the Silence

30 Jun. 2004

Testimonies page 2:

I want to talk about an incident that took place during a funeral at the Abu Sneina cemetery; at the time, the operations command center was composed of… and… We went to the funeral before it started, and arrived at the cemetery, and there were dozens of people, even more, I think, maybe a hundred mourners, and it really was before the funeral got started. The officer, he was the... approached the funeral and wanted to disperse it. As I see it, a funeral is a very... the actual burying of someone who has died is something that must be done... it is the most humanitarian thing possible, it is beyond question. When approaching the mourners and trying to disperse the funeral, he had, I was near him, a look of hatred in his eyes as he approached the mourners… who only wanted to bury their loved one, and came to disperse them with hatred and shouts and gun threats and turned his weapon against the mourners and the people near him, and after realizing that they were determined to bury their loved one, he insisted on taking advantage of every measure at his disposal... he even cursed, cocked his weapon, and approached an eighty-year-old man who could hardly move and pointed his gun at his face, and there were really more than a hundred people who watched this scene of an officer dispersing with such hatred. And through this hatred and insistence on dispersing a funeral, I could really see that he didn’t consider them equal human beings. I’m still mad at myself for not saying anything. As in other incidents, I simply lowered my eyes and didn’t know what to do with myself. I want to add one small detail that puts it all in a different perspective, the unbearable lightness of these things that happen, it was during the Hudna, and in the end it turned out that they had permission to hold this funeral. It was the hardest thing to find out later that they actually had a permit from the regiment, and all he had to do was ask the operations center what he should do, in order to understand that it wasn’t necessary.


It is, in a way, a very good feeling because you can do whatever you want, you’re the master of your actions, tell them what to do and they’ll do it because they’re afraid. And here enter the discretion and maturity of the soldiers which, are not always to be found... a lot of disasters happen here, because the moment you give an eighteen-year-old such power he can do horrible things, he may do… normal… things, I can’t say good things… In principle, you shouldn’t let people pass. People will beg you because you have a weapon, people know that you are actually their gateway to a certain place, and they have to convince you, if they want to get there. I, personally, made a special effort, precisely because I have a uniform and a weapon, to handle each and every case with logic; I gave the weapon and uniform a chance to prove that there is... ah... I don’t know how to put it. That there are soldiers in the IDF... you know, there is hatred and there is... if soldiers don’t behave like human beings there, then... Listen, Arabs see the State of Israel and the Jews they know, that is, the soldiers and the settlers. They don’t know people from Tel Aviv or Kibbutzniks.


Concerning the IDF, the ease in which you actually do whatever you want to do unsupervised, that is, enter people’s homes, conduct random searches. Every officer, every commander can decide now I’m entering a home, ordering the family out, ransacking the house... In fact, I think that in Hebron, I was disturbed and frightened most of all by the unregulated and uncontrolled power, and the things it made people do. On one occasion we were told: “Peace and quiet is not necessarily good, and if there isn’t mayhem, we’ll create it.” To demonstrate power, to demonstrate that we are everywhere. A soldier like me felt embarrassed in situations in which I was confronted with adults, old people. There are things, I believe, that an army shouldn’t do, like close schools; simply enter a school and: no school today. Without asking too many questions. That’s it, in a nutshell.


At a certain stage, it was decided that for the soldiers to fulfill their duty and really check the Palestinians who pass there, they should check their ID cards, and so my company commander initiated a quota of twenty ID cards per guard duty, not at night, of course. Twenty IDs per guard duty. He also ordered, and this is the attempt to be enlightened: that a person who waits more than twenty minutes, a half an hour, should be released. After all, as I understood it, the people who are summoned to the police station are not terrorists or anything like that, but most probably collaborators. I suppose if they were terrorists, no one would let them walk from there to the police station. In any case, at a certain stage, the most exciting thing in the company was to compete who could check as many IDs as possible in a given guard duty. And what happened next was that in one case a commander and a soldier decided to reach the maximum , to break the quota, and check as many IDs as possible, and simply started taking groups of three, brought them over, and made them stand on the side while they checked their IDs over the radio. After adding other groups of three... the number swelled to seven, eight, nine people who were standing there within a space of one by two meters more or less, standing and waiting while their IDs were being checked over the radio. Now, first of all, operationally speaking this is dumb, and this was the first thing that came to mind. My company commander came and yelled at them, yelled because operationally speaking it was a dumb thing to do, when nine people are guarded by two people, not only is it unwise, its dangerous. The thing that I managed to understand only later, honestly because that place makes you emotionally detached and you aren’t really able to figure out what goes on there... I understood how inhumane it was. How evil it is to do this to people. To take them and stick them on top of each other; to make them stand like this for twenty minutes, and not because of some security necessity, but because the soldiers acted out of inertia and found an interesting way to pass their guard duty.


There is this thing among the guys... I don’t want to define them, but the guys who believe that it’s not right to be in the territories, and nevertheless serve in the territories. There is a tendency to say, “I didn’t do these things, and I don’t do the bad things you hear about on the news or in stories about officer courses or other places.” And many guys pat themselves on the back, saying, “Here here, look they’re nice to us, they smile at us, offer us coffee.” And whenever I’d hear this it drove me crazy. The question is: who is nice to us, who offers us coffee? The Arabs. The Jews are always nice, of course, unless it conflicts with their interests. But on a daily basis they’re nice, and you expect the Arabs to be hostile... and you do what you do, climb up on a family’s roof, and then the owner of the house brings you oranges and coffee. And you start feeling okay with it... You look the man in the eyes and say to yourself, “I can tell whether he’s afraid of me or likes me.” This is bullshit. He may even like you at this point, because you knocked on his door politely and didn’t break it down. But ultimately, if I were them, it wouldn’t matter to me if they told me: get inside your house please or get inside your house with a gun pointed in my face. What difference does it make? You don’t let me walk around in the streets, you don’t let me work, you don’t let me live or breathe, what difference does it make whether it is done politely or by force? What difference does it make if you open the door or break it down, in any case you enter the house... It is self-evident to you. Moreover, a month before you arrived, a month after you’ll leave, it’s all the same. You were the moral soldier, the enlightened soldier, You behaved nicely and properly with each and every human being? Not only toward Arabs, toward every human being. You were decent. After you, someone less decent will come along.


About shooting? You hear a shot, someone, a Palestinian probably, a terrorist, shot at a certain post, or maybe not, I don’t know. There’s simply a shot... from the other side, the Palestinian side. And gradually, at first it was more focused and they didn’t allow us to shoot back just like that, and when it slowly turned routine, this whole business, it simply became like... A shot is fired from their side, a barrage follows. We were in the Jewish neighborhood, and Abu Sneina hill was in front of us. Simply shooting at the hill. There was the... post, there were... all sorts of machine-guns, all sorts of mortars, all these things, a sniper. It was a permanent post, and it was from there that we shot the most. Each time there was a barrage, we tried to aim at certain buildings, and sometimes we fired with no specific targets. On the whole it was like this: one shot from their side, a bombardment from ours.


The crazy thing is that you stand there, an IDF soldier, okay? You've got a machine gun and it's loaded and the safety catch is off. So what, are you an idiot? How dare you not listen to me? I can shoot you at any given moment. I can split your head open with the butt of my gun and chances are my commander will give me a pat on the back and say: "That's showing them. Finally you got it right." Where do you get the nerve? How come you don't understand? How come you don't see the total control I have over you? Like, it's crazy! I'm just a kid. I was born yesterday. I derive my power from my uniform and my machine gun, its what gives me the right to decide everything. And I do what I'm told to. That's the power I have and I use it. I can be the most enlightened and considerate person in the world but when I say: "mamnu` tajawul, ruh `al beit" [there’s a curfew, go home] there is a period and four exclamation marks at the end of that sentence. It’s non-negotiable. I don’t care if I'm 18 or 17 or 21. I'm a soldier. I've got a gun and I'm from the IDF. I've got orders, and they better follow them. They'd better follow the orders I give them. I give the orders here. In fact, they're civilians unrelated to me, and I'm giving them orders all the time… and they'll follow them whether they like it or not. And if they don't like it, if they make trouble, then I'll force them to follow them. Why? Good question. A very good question. I really don't know… just because. Because it's shit. That's what it is. comment: Names and other details that may idengify individual speakers, or others they describe, have been ommitted from the public version of this text by the organizers, for reasons that have not been declared.