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Ex-Israel Soldier: I Helped Entrench the Occupation

World  (tags: israel, palestine, injustice, occupation, IDF, soldiers, innocent civilians, Breaking the Silence, Avner Gvaryahu, conscience, moral )

- 209 days ago -
"What motivated me eventually to break my silence were the piercing eyes of young Palestinians when I was barging into their house in the middle of the night."There's a system constantly thinking:How can we maintain the status quo? How can we entrench it?


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Jonathan Harper (0)
Wednesday February 21, 2018, 4:34 am

Evelyn B (61)
Wednesday February 21, 2018, 4:39 am

Ex-Israel soldier: I helped entrench the occupation
February 19, 2018

A former Israeli soldier has said that it is the responsibility of Israeli citizens to call for an end to the occupation in order to put an end to the suffering of the Palestinians.

During an interview with BBC HARDtalk last week, Avner Gvaryahu, executive director of Breaking the Silence, spoke about the organisation’s mission to collect testimonies from Israeli soldiers who witnessed the crimes of the military against the Palestinian people.

A former paratrooper in the army, he spoke of his personal experience as a soldier and the operations he was made to carry out.

“I was the sergeant of a snipers team and one of the routine missions we carried out in Nablus, in Jenin or the surrounding areas of those two cities, was a mission that we call a Straw Widow; you would take over a Palestinian home. Every house in the West Bank actually has a number, each and every house has a number, so we would open up the maps and look at the specific house that looked into the right place that we had to enter, and after we would verify that the house has the best parameters, windows and geographical area, we made sure that the people in the house were innocent. So we would enter a house of an innocent Palestinian home in the middle of the night,” he explained.

Whilst initially Gvaryahu followed the orders he received without question, he realised that his moral conscience could not accept the brutal acts he was committing against innocent civilians.

What motivated me eventually to break my silence were the piercing eyes of young Palestinians,
when I was barging into their house in the middle of the night.

“I could always justify it to myself, but those eyes, their anger and their fear was what helped me overcome that.”

It was only when Gvaryahu spoke with a Palestinian doctor whose house he was raiding, that he was able to understand the suffering of the Palestinian people whose autonomy had been stolen from them.

“That physician himself was kind enough and generous enough to sit down and explain to me what it means to be a Palestinian, and that experience when I’m sitting in a house in Nablus made me realise what I’m actually doing, as a soldier to millions and millions of people,” he said.

When questioned as to whether abuses by Israeli occupation forces were simply cases of soldiers committing atrocities, Gvaryahu highlighted that the mission of the Israeli government was control over the Palestinians and military violence was just one means to achieve that.

“There is a system that for now 51 years is constantly thinking: How can we maintain the status quo? … How can we entrench it? The Israeli occupation has built in the mind set of Israeli society a false equation that basically says it’s a zero sum game, it’s either us or them, and in order for us to feel secure, they have to feel insecure,” he said.

“The mission is control … and the symptoms [military brutality] will not disappear until we end the occupation.”

He also highlighted how ongoing Israeli policies towards the Palestinians were sentencing both parties for another cycle of fighting.

“In every house, in every checkpoint, in every land grab, in every unauthorised settlement, that was approved, for example by our minister of defence just recently, we are dooming us and our neighbouring Palestinians, who are not going anywhere, to another cycle of this.” He argued:

In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there is one issue, the Israeli occupation, that is one sided and
it’s our responsibility to want to end it

Gvaryahu emphasised that the Israeli government, was ultimately responsible for the acts soldiers were mandated to carry out in the occupied territories, and that a political resolution was needed to put an end to the conflict.

Many senior Israeli figures, including Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, have labelled Gvaryahu a traitor and accused Breaking the Silence of trying to besmirch Israel’s reputation. In response, Gvaryahu answered: “We are trying to besmirch something, it’s not Israel, it’s the occupation itself.”

Breaking the Silence has also been threatened on multiple occasions, with Gvaryahu noting how one individual was found attempting to burn their offices. However he reiterated that though the group is a minority, they were determined to stand against injustice.

“Even though I’m a minority voice, my responsibility is to speak out. Breaking the Silence is difficult because it is exactly against the stream,” he concluded. “But you cannot ban voices or accept them as legitimate or illegitimate because of the amount of people who support them, but because of the essence of the claim.”

Evelyn B (61)
Wednesday February 21, 2018, 4:46 am
The BBC Hardtalk link in the article takes one to a BBC iplayer page that doesn't allow many outside the UK to watch the full interview.

But I found it on youtube: Avner Gvaryahu, EXD of BtS, on BBC HARDtalk 15.2.18

Freya H (358)
Wednesday February 21, 2018, 4:47 am
Good for this soldier! He proves that Israelis, and even the military, are not monolithic in supporting Nuttin-Yahoo's insane regime and policies of ethnic cleansing.

Animae C (506)
Wednesday February 21, 2018, 5:16 am
Nuttin-Yahoo!!! Good one F!!!


TY Evelyn

Evelyn B (61)
Wednesday February 21, 2018, 5:39 am
Totally agree, Freya!

They ARE out there, the Israelis with a conscience ... And the government wants to silence them, prevent their joint efforts with Palestinians
See also
Summary: The Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day 2017

Colleen L (3)
Wednesday February 21, 2018, 11:04 am
Good fo him. Agree with Freya. Thanks Evelyn

Darren Woolsey (218)
Wednesday February 21, 2018, 11:32 am
War begets war, violence begets violence.

fly bird (26)
Wednesday February 21, 2018, 11:12 pm
VIDEO - Why Israelis must disrupt the occupation.
12 June 2017

One of the most disturbing aspects about the reality in Palestine is its normalcy.

It has become normal to see Palestinians shot and killed, even children. The faces of young Palestinians showing up daily on social media, boys and girls shot by soldiers, accused falsely of attempting to stab a soldier.

It has become normal to see Israeli soldiers shooting skunk water and tear gas, and snipers using live ammunition at unarmed protesters who want the land that was once theirs and the freedom they never had.

And it has become normal for us to engage in the endless, fruitless debate on whether Palestinians throwing stones at armed Israeli soldiers who invade their homes constitutes violence, or whether or not Zionism – which produced this violence – is a racist ideology. And all the while the suffering and the oppression of millions of Palestinians go on almost uninterrupted.

It is no secret that Israelis and Palestinians live two separate realities.

Even when we privileged Israelis go to the village of Nabi Saleh on a Friday to participate in the weekly protest, at the end of the day we are free to leave the village, leave the occupation and return to our safe, clean, well-paved spheres. Unlike the Palestinians we leave behind, our homes will not be raided, our roads will not be blocked and our children will not have to hide for days or weeks from the threat of being shot, arrested and tortured.

We return home sweaty and tired, covered in tear gas and skunk water and we feel we did our bit. But what bit did we do? What is the role of the privileged Israeli activists within the resistance and why are we accomplishing so little?

To begin with we need to admit that this is resistance and ask whether we are willing to take part.

On any given Friday there may be about 10 Israeli activists, be it in Nabi Saleh or Bilin, currently the two main locations for Friday protests in the occupied West Bank. Some Israelis walk in the back, some in the front.


Some like to say they are merely documenting. Most, like shadows, don’t seem like they know their place and don’t want to interfere. Few confront the Israeli forces. So the question that begs to be asked is, what are we accomplishing?

If we don’t use our privilege to push the envelope and to confront the Israeli authorities, then we are indeed mere shadows.

My latest visit to Nabi Saleh was on 26 May, exactly two weeks after Saba Abu Ubaid, 23, was shot and killed by Israeli forces during a protest there.

The march began, as always, with people walking down the hill from the mosque after noon prayer, carrying flags and chanting. There were about 30 or 40 people (though in the charges that would be brought against me, the Israeli police claimed there were 200 protesters), mostly Palestinians with a few regular Israelis and other foreigners.

After a few minutes we were confronted by the Israeli forces who informed us we were to disperse.

How does one begin to describe the outrage? Fully armed soldiers on occupied land telling the people whose village they invaded that they must disperse. But in Palestine, this is normal so there is little outrage.

“Shoot them in the legs”

The usual pushing and shoving began and was then followed by the firing of tear gas, skunk water and, before too long, live ammunition. Considering what had taken place there just two weeks earlier, seeing snipers take their positions and take aim at the kids on the hills was cause for serious concern. I heard someone whose name badge identified him as Raja Keyes order the snipers to “shoot them in the legs.”

Nabi Saleh residents began sitting in front of the snipers to block their sights. More tear gas, more skunk water and more snipers followed.

Keyes was right next to me when he walked to a group of women and children watching the events from the side of the road and, with a smile on his face, threw a tear gas grenade at them. One of the mothers ran up a terrace to interfere with the snipers and was pushed around by soldiers. I ran up towards her, went around a young officer who tried to stop me and by the time I reached her they came for me.

Four or five officers, including Keyes had me in a tight grip. The officers were from Magav – although often described as “border police,” Magav is a unit within the Israeli military.

By that time, the officers had good reason to resent me and want me out of the way.

The photos and videos of my arrest made their way to social media, so suffice it to say they were not gentle and I was not compliant. (My arrest is at about 12:10 in the video below of the day’s events, made by Palestinian activist Bilal Tamimi.)

At one point after I was arrested, Keyes introduced himself formally to me as “force commander” and asked for my ID, which I did not have.

Later on, when I was taken away in the armored vehicle, he was seated in the front and I proceeded to tell him that he was no “commander” and he was not heading any “force” but rather they were all a gang of armed bullies.

But this is not about me or any other single activist. It is about the role that we Israelis can play which is unique because Israeli law provides us with a shield that Palestinians and international activists do not have.

It is not our role to play unbiased spectators or to document, nor is it our role to just follow along. We can get in the faces of the commanders and the soldiers and disrupt their work. In fact, one of the comments made constantly by the commanders is that we are “disrupting their work, and will be arrested for that.”

My response is that this is precisely the point! Why show up if we let them go about their business? When we are arrested we are always charged with disrupting officers on duty, even when we don’t, but that is exactly what we must do.

Along Highway 443 – sometimes known as the “apartheid highway” – there is a sign in Hebrew that says: “By order of the commanding general, Israelis are prohibited from entering the villages along this road.” When activists do go to the villages to protest, they challenge this command. But still, the shield that our Israeli ID provides us can be used to disrupt the normalcy of the occupation everywhere.

Israelis, even dedicated, well-meaning ones, do far too little and we use far too little of our privilege to challenge and combat the injustice meted out against Palestinians. Most Israeli activists won’t even call for refusal to serve in the Israeli army because they consider that too radical.

No one likes to be arrested, particularly when it involves a night or two in jail, sharing a smoke-filled room with no ventilation and no company save cockroaches and two-bit criminals who hate activists even more than they hate Arabs.

If we are to play a role in the overthrow of injustice, and if we are to one day see an end to the oppression of more than half of the people with whom we live, then we must use our privilege and act to end the normalcy and the oppression.

Miko Peled is the author of The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine.

Evelyn B (61)
Wednesday February 21, 2018, 11:15 pm
"“Even though I’m a minority voice, my responsibility is to speak out. Breaking the Silence is difficult because it is exactly against the stream,” he concluded. “But you cannot ban voices or accept them as legitimate or illegitimate because of the amount of people who support them, but because of the essence of the claim.”" -

He could have cited Edmund Burke

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Or John Stuart Mill
"Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing."

Evelyn B (61)
Wednesday February 21, 2018, 11:33 pm
Peled, like Gvaryahu, (& Avnery & Levin & others) have the courage to stand up and name the toxic sickness that is not only eating away at Israeli society but is also blinding those who WANT Israel to fulfil their dreams at all cost

A timely reminder of Peled, thanks, Jess

Evelyn B (61)
Wednesday February 21, 2018, 11:52 pm
By the way - did you see that it was Ahed Tamimi trying to protect Peled during the arrest?

What a symbol! A Palestinian adolescent defending the Israeli General's son!!!

fly bird (26)
Thursday February 22, 2018, 4:04 am
Yes, I did notice that Ahed tried to protect Peled several times!!

That is stepping up, solidarity and courage.
Is there any news, of Ahed and her mother??
It is an outrage what the IDF/state of Israel continues to do to Palestinian children and protestors, who want to stand up for their rights, and speak out against the Israeli oppression and land and resource thefts, every day - and settler attacks.

Imagine the spread of alien, hostile, and aggressive people, moving in and pushing your family and friends out, invading your homes in the night, and by day, non stop!

How do Israelis keep allowing this???

Evelyn B (61)
Thursday February 22, 2018, 7:04 am
The Israeli right-wingers are trying to mobilise for a 20 year sentence for Ahed, but the judgement date is being delayed (hoping attention will be distracted???)

I can't understand how Jews who have lived through discrimination and abuse can tolerate - let alone endorse - such behaviour from the government of a country established as a sanctuary from such abuse.
Of course - not all do.

Peggy B (43)
Thursday February 22, 2018, 7:24 am

fly bird (26)
Friday February 23, 2018, 1:43 am
Evelyn, I could not say it better than you have in your comment, above. It is incomprehensible; it seems that 'collective' memory has all but disappeared, where the human rights of others, and Palestinians, especially, are concerned.

Report: Israel carried out extrajudicial executions, tortured children.
February 22, 2018

Israeli authorities and armed forces carried out extrajudicial executions, tortured Palestinian prisoners and targeted human rights defenders, Amnesty International’s new annual report says.

2017 “marked the 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the [occupied] Palestinian Territories” (OPT), Amnesty noted, “and the 10th anniversary of its illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip.”

Israeli authorities intensified the expansion of settlements and related infrastructure across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and carried out a large number of demolitions of Palestinian property, forcibly evicting more than 660 people

the report states.

“Many of these demolitions were in Bedouin and herding communities that the Israeli authorities planned to forcibly transfer.”

Read: Israel demolishes Arab village of Al-Araqeeb for 125th time.

Meanwhile, Amnesty also slammed “Israel’s air, land and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip”, which it says is “collectively punishing Gaza’s entire population of approximately 2 million inhabitants”.

Addressing the use of lethal violence, Amnesty International noted that Israeli forces killed 76 Palestinians and one foreign national in 2017, adding that “many, including children, were shot and unlawfully killed while posing no immediate threat to life”.

Some killings, Amnesty continued, “appeared to have been extrajudicial executions”.

Across the occupied territories, “Israeli forces, including undercover units, used excessive and sometimes lethal force when they used rubber-coated metal bullets and live ammunition against Palestinian protesters”, killing “at least 20, and injuring thousands”.

Report: Israel soldiers beat, abuse Palestinian child prisoners

Amnesty’s annual report notes the killing in December of “wheelchair user Ibrahim Abu Thurayya”, who “was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier as he was sitting with a group of protesters near the fence separating Gaza from Israel”.

The new report also commented on Israel’s use of mass incarceration as a tool of political repression, documenting how “Israel detained or continued to imprison thousands of Palestinians from the OPT, mostly in prisons in Israel, in violation of international law”.

Israeli authorities also “continued to substitute administrative detention for criminal prosecution”, says Amnesty, “holding hundreds of Palestinians, including children, civil society leaders and NGO workers, without charge or trial under renewable orders, based on information withheld from detainees and their lawyers.”

Furthermore, “Israeli soldiers and police and Israel Security Agency [Shin Bet] officers subjected Palestinian detainees, including children, to torture and other ill-treatment with impunity, particularly during arrest and interrogation.”

Amnesty International also accused Israeli authorities of using “a range of measures, both in Israel and the OPT, to target human rights defenders who criticised Israel’s continuing occupation.”

Other topics covered by the report, in relation to Israel’s ongoing rights violations, included the lack of accountability, “more than three years” later, for “evidently unlawful attacks including war crimes” committed by the Israeli military in its 2014 assault on the Gaza Strip.

Read: Israel proposes bill to revoke residency status of Palestinians in East Jerusalem.


fly bird (26)
Friday February 23, 2018, 10:40 pm
VIDEO: Save Gaza - Save the World: A Message to Humanity.

fly bird (26)
Wednesday February 28, 2018, 12:18 pm
McCollum Introduces Legislation to Promote Human Rights for Palestinian Children.
November 14, 2017

Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.) today introduced legislation— the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act, H.R. 4391 — to prevent United States tax dollars from supporting the Israeli military’s ongoing detention and mistreatment of Palestinian children. The full text of the bill can be found here.

An estimated 10,000 Palestinian children have been detained by Israeli security forces and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system since 2000. Independent monitors such as Human Rights Watch have documented that these children are subject to abuse and, in some cases, torture — specifically citing the use of chokeholds, beatings, and coercive interrogation on children between the ages of 11 and 15. In addition, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has found that Palestinian children are frequently held for extended periods without access to either their parents or attorneys.

“This legislation highlights Israel’s system of military detention of Palestinian children and ensures that no American assistance to Israel supports human rights violations,” Congresswoman McCollum said. “Peace can only be achieved by respecting human rights, especially the rights of children. Congress must not turn a blind eye the unjust and ongoing mistreatment of Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation.”

The Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act requires that the Secretary of State certify that American funds do not support Israel’s military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children. Given that the Israeli government receives billions of dollars in assistance from the United States, Congress must work to ensure that American taxpayer dollars never support the Israeli military’s detention or abuse of Palestinian children.

Joining Congresswoman McCollum as original co-sponsors of the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act are Representatives Mark Pocan, Earl Blumenauer, André Carson, John Conyers, Jr., Danny K. Davis, Peter A. DeFazio, Raul Grijalva, Luis V. Gutiérrez, and Chellie Pingree.

The legislation has been endorsed by the American Friends Service Committee, Amnesty International USA, Center for Constitutional Rights, Churches for Middle East Peace, Defense for Children International - Palestine, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ, Jewish Voice for Peace, Mennonite Central Committee, Presbyterian Church (USA), the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, United Methodists for Kairos Response (UMKR), and United Methodist General Board of Church and Society.

“Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) strongly endorses Rep. Betty McCollum's Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act. In order for the U.S. to play a constructive role in bringing about a comprehensive and sustainable end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we must ensure we are not supporting the continued trauma inflicted on Palestinian youth entangled in the Israeli Military Detention system,” Churches for Middle East Peace said in a statement.

"Jewish tradition teaches that each and every single person has inherent dignity and worth and must be treated accordingly. This legislation recognizes and acts upon the inherent dignity and worth of Palestinian children and sends the message that the United States is committed to a future with freedom, safety, and equality for both Palestinians and Israelis,” Jewish Voices for Peace said in a statement.

THANK YOU, FREYA. **************

fly bird (26)
Thursday March 1, 2018, 6:18 pm
Israel lawmakers approve bill criminalising criticism of the military.
February 27, 2018

The Israeli Knesset has approved the first reading of a bill that would ban organisations critical of the country’s military. The contentious bill, which passed by 35-23 votes yesterday, was proposed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett. The chairman of the right-wing Jewish Home party is seeking to criminalise organisations that are critical of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

Bennet’s primary target is the group known as Breaking the Silence. The organisation of veteran Israeli combatants who speak out against the brutal nature of the occupation has become a major thorn for the government. Ex-soldiers have exposed wide scale abuse, looting and destruction. Their testimonies shed light on the grim reality of the occupation.

Addressing the bill, Bennett said: “Breaking the Silence has long ago crossed the line of legitimate discourse, when it chose a path of slander and lies against IDF soldiers on the international stage.” Another Israeli lawmaker Shuli Mualem accused Breaking the Silence of seeking to “undermine” the regime and its army soldiers.

Ex-Israel soldier: I helped entrench the occupation

If the bill passes two further reading it would authorise the education minister to bar groups and individuals from entering schools. One of the concerns raised during the debate was that the groups’ activity could lead to Israeli soldiers being prosecuted in international courts or foreign countries for actions carried out as part of their military duty.

In their response to the bill, the group accused Bennett of promoting “occupation education” and trying to “crush every democratic value on the altar of the settlement movement.”

It also noted that those who hurt Israeli soldiers are actually “politicians like Bennett, who send us to control the Palestinians and are silent when settlers routinely attack soldiers and Palestinians.”

The anti-occupation group further emphasised that “the only way to stop us is to end the occupation.”

This bill is the latest in a long list of measures adopted by the Israeli Knesset to supress dissenting voices in the country. Last November, a law was introduced to criminalise activists that support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Israeli army bans ‘Breaking the Silence’ from Hebron settlement

A separate bill paving the way for annexation of the West Bank was also approved yesterday. Israeli lawmakers agreed to expand the jurisdiction of Israeli courts over “Area C” of the West Bank. The Bill was tabled by another right-wing Israeli minister, Ayelet Shaked.

The area is currently ruled by the military however under the new bill, legal claims in the occupied territory would be treated as though the territory is part of Israel. The legislation will also treat Israeli settlers living in the West Bank like those living within the pre-1967 borders, or the so-called Green Line.

Palestinian representatives of the Knesset have slammed the measure as another initiative by Israel to normalise the occupation and to advance “creeping annexation” over the West Bank.

“The High Court of Justice has never treated the Palestinians in the territories justly,” said Yousef Jabarin, a member of the Joint List.
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