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Home » Soldiers »

Testimony - "The occupation is the most anti-democratic thing happening"


Name: Anonymous
Rank: First Sergeant
Unit: Nahal, 50th Battalion
Location: West Bank
Date: 2015

An Israeli soldier provides a testimony to Breaking the Silence explaining why he chose to speak out. "The occupation itself is the most anti-democratic thing happening. There are many people who know what it looks like."

Soldier: "I arrived on the scene of a riot and was told [by the officer]: Shoot rubber [bullets] at the so-called primary inciter, meaning the guy with the slingshot joking around the most, with everyone behind him."

Interviewer: "There's one of those at every demonstration?"

Soldier: "No, there are usually a few, and the rubber [bullets] are wasted on them."
Interviewer: "And what defines him as the primary inciter is thathe's holding a slingshot?"
Soldier: "Right, but also socially. Socially, everybody's behind him, he's the man standing up front, walking."
Interviewer: "You can really see it?"
Soldier: "You know him, he'll also be the primary inciter during the next riot. In short, I remember the first time [the commander] told me to shoot rubber, and I was really nervous. Now that it happens on a daily basis, even me [with] some sort of values and moral background so to speak, at some stage the riots become a game, for both sides. Everybody knows that between 3 and 7 in the afternoon, we all go out to play, they throw stones and we shoot rubber. At a certain stage it was as simple as breathing, that's what I did, and it didn't bother me and I was indifferent to it, and I didn't care about hitting someone with rubber [bullets]."
Interviewer: "What are the procedures for shooting rubber [bullets]?"
Soldier: "The procedures for using rubber are, shoot at the knee or lower, from a range of no less than 30 meters, I think. Procedures. But in real life..."
Interviewer: "What happens in real life?"
Soldier: "In real life, at a certain stage I went through a process of dehumanization. I don't know, maybe when a stone hit near me, and a guy would curse at me or get on my nerves, then I would allow myself to raise the scope to the stomach area. If his back was to me then to his back. I knew I wasn't aiming at areas like the heart, because I knew the danger of that and I wasn't becoming a monster, but yes, I raised the scope a bit. And nobody ever measures your range, if I'm about 15 meters from a kid, and he's behind a car, and I'm, say, behind a tree, and he gets on my nerves – I'll shoot rubber at him, I won't count the meters. There are [also] deviations, it happens, it scatters (the bullets scatter upon shooting), and that's some sort of gray area that the soldiers allow themselves to be in. I, too, allowed myself to be in that gray area many times, like shooting above the knee."
Interviewer: "Did you shoot [rubber bullets] at someone from 15 meters?"
Soldier: "Yes."
Interviewer: "You're shooting with a Trij (Trijicon – sharpshooter scope)?"
Soldier: "Yes, I'm shooting with a Trij."
Interviewer: "The rubber bullets come in parcels, a sort of tampon(military slang for a nylon package containing three rubber-coated metal bullets, to be shot together). Were there cases in which you disassembled it?"
Soldier: "I can't distinctly remember doing that. I remember that there was this thing that some guys would do it before riots. But I really don't distinctly remember whether I didit or not."
Interviewer: "Did you know that it wasn't allowed?"
Soldier: "Yes, of course, we knew it wasn’t allowed, we knew that it increases the pain and the range, and that was the issue. There were guys who would do it, and guys who said: no, don't do it."
Interviewer: "Do you have any idea whether the commanders knew?"
Soldier: "To assume that the commanders don’t know about things seems baseless to me. But many commanders know and keep quiet because they're in favor. Commanders keep quiet about things that soldiers do."
Interviewer: "When you say commanders, what do you mean, squad commanders?"
Soldier: "Squad commanders, platoon commanders, battalion commanders. When it suits them they keep quiet, [like] the three monkeys."
"I think it began last year, during one of the media storms surrounding Breaking the Silence. I didn't really get into it until a friend of mine told me he was going to give a testimony. I asked him why and we got to talking about Breaking the Silence. I was familiar with some of the organization's work, but never even tried thinking about it. When we began talking about it, I simply understood that the army can't self-inspect, definitely not when it comes to the occupation, so the democratic principles and bounds on which democracy is founded, can become gray areas. And in addition to that there’s the occupation itself, which is the most anti-democratic thing happening. And the discourse – after the army I took part in all sorts of forums that talked about it, and I felt that there were many people who talked about the occupation without understanding. There’s also the mentality of an army maintaining an occupation, of the soldiers, which isn’t disconnected from the mentality and codes people take with them to the State, thereafter, to their work, to all of Israeli society that isn’t the army. And there's an entire nation under occupation, and we must understand what’s happening. There are many people who don't know what it looks like."