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Home » Soldiers »

Testimony - "I would also throw stones if they came to take my brother away"

 

Name: Anonymous
Rank: First Sergeant
Unit: Nahal, 932nd Battalion
Location: Al Jalazun camp, West Bank
Date: 2014

An Israeli soldier provides a testimony to Breaking the Silence explaining why he chose to speak out. "I would also come out and throw stones if they were to come take my big brother away in the middle of the night, no doubt about it, no matter what he did."

Soldier: We carried out an arrest in Jelazoun. It was a very big arrest. We were with the police. The goal was to take in a guy, who if I'm not mistaken, sold Molotov cocktails, prepared Molotov cocktails. He was defined as dangerous. Jelazoun is a refugee camp and the alleys are all very narrow, sewage in the streets. We’re headed to the arrest on foot and there’s a big dumpster in the street full of trash, and suddenly a little boy and girl emerge from the dumpster. The boy, who was older than his sister, wasn’t over six years old. Filthy, searching through all sorts of canned food.

We arrive at the [site of the] arrest and the company commander’s front command squad enters the house. We enter the house. A few mattresses, a very very poor house, and the mother opens the door for us. The company commander pushes the door with her, we enter the house, check the rooms. The company commander finds the kid, he's in bed. The moment he sees us he gets up, tries to escape through the window, and is caught. Within a few seconds, zip ties, he's handcuffed, blindfolded while still in the house, in front of his mother, and is about to be led out. His mother, by the most natural instinct, jumped at the company commander and tried to scratch him. We caught her by the armpit, and forced her back. He [the detainee] was a young guy, 20 something. We take him out, all his brothers wake up, the whole block wakes up, people looking out through the windows. His father isn't at home.

As we're stepping outside, the company commander tells me to guard him, that they're going back in to take his computer, to take all sorts of evidence and search his room. While we're outside, his mother is standing in the entrance to the house, hitting herself, crying, crying, crying, and then she runs up to me, kneels down, hugs my leg and mumbles in Hebrew-Arabic "please, please," all sorts of words. I don't know what she said in Arabic. She pleaded. Her son is blindfolded, standing, I'm holding him, [he] hears her. And I didn't do anything. I stood there like this and ignored her. I completely froze. You arrive there and you say, "I’m going to arrest the bad guys." Suddenly you see the eyes of a mother who [could be] your mother, your friend's mother, your grandmother’s mother – crying. She's not a bad person. Maybe she doesn't like me, but from that moment on I understood why she doesn't like me. You won't see an Arab woman on the ground hugging a man's leg. It was very brutal. She didn't let me budge. I looked at her and my soldiers took him aside, and I sort of did this with my leg. I didn't sayanything."

Interviewer: "What do you feel upon your release?"

Soldier: "The main feeling I left there with was that I really felt I understood. Somehow I understood them. I said to myself, I would also..."
 
Interviewer: "The Palestinians?"
 
Soldier: "Yes. I would also come out and throw stones if they were to come take my big brother away in the middle of the night, no doubt about it, no matter what he did. Because he's my brother. And when you and your little sister go looking for food in garbage cans in the middle of night, how far can you get ahead in life? If you have cat carcasses and sewage flowing outside your house? So obviously at the age of 15 you'll go out and throw stones because that's where you vent your... You're educated that they're to blame. So suddenly [I have] a lot of understanding for the other side, something I didn’t have at all prior. And I also really see a difference between those who were there and those who weren't – and it doesn't matter whether they're leftists or rightists – in terms of how they see the situation. Simply, whoever was there understands that there's another side to this matter, and they’re not masked, they're human beings. When you block traffic, put up a checkpost in the evening, setting up a checkpoint as you see families on their way home, and just because someone in their village threw a Molotov cocktail a few days ago, they suffer from it now. It doesn’t mean that they did it, doesn’t mean that they intend to do it, but they’re now suffering from it."