Testimony: "Delete, delete, delete"
|Location:||Ramallah, West Bank|
An Israeli soldier provides a testimony to Breaking the Silence in which he describes cancelling permits for Palestinian family members to visit relatives in Israeli prisons for protesting conditions.
Soldier: There was a prisoners’ strike in one of the prisons. There was this incident where that’s it, everyone started to strike, and they (the security establishment) wanted to pressure them to stop this strike because it was getting a bad name all over the world, because people abroad started to find out what was happening in the prison.
Usually our daily schedule was to start at 8 AM and finish work at 5 PM, and on that day, they called everyone into the office after 5 PM and asked us to work on something. They gave us a file with tons and tons of ID numbers and divided it among the different work stations and told us that these were IDs of people who were in the prison and were part of this strike, and they asked us to just go one by one into the IDs and their relatives in the system, and simply delete any prisoner visit by relatives.
Interviewer: What does that mean?
Soldier: It means that any relative who wanted to come visit a prisoner who participated in the strike or whatever it was, they asked us to delete the permit, to just cancel it so it doesn’t happen, so they couldn’t go visit them, in order to pressure them so that they stop doing the strike.
That’s what happened and in the moment I didn’t think about what I was actually doing. They just told us: you’re not leaving the office until you finish with this file, like until there’s not a single relative remaining, like so that we cancel their permits.
And then we started to fight among ourselves because the people who’d been there longer, who got it a bit more said: No, we’re not going to do that. But I don’t think it was for moral reasons but more in terms of, “We want to go to bed, we don’t want to stay in the office after working hours and deal with these permits.”
So we did all think together about ways to get through it as fast as we could so we could finish it and go to bed, and it really was like one by one, endlessly, going in, canceling. Going in, canceling. And I’m just seeing, mother, father and sisters and cousins, and just delete, delete, delete.
And then like, only when I went to bed, I stopped to think about what I had done in that moment and what it means. I thought that if these guys had got to the point of deciding that they want to go on strike in prison, that means something. It’s still prison, right? But I thought that it’s just from a moral standpoint a terrible thing to do, it’s just done in order to break them, and I think that was the goal, to just make them stop the strike.
I was an instrument in this whole story, I pushed buttons and helped the military break these people morally and physically. And that’s why it really kind of scarred me because I was 19, and what do I understand about the conflict at all? When I talked about it with the soldiers, about what we’d actually done here, they told me that nothing can be done, it’s the IDF and they were, at the end of the day, prisoners, they’re criminals and an order is an order, and you have to do [it], and there’s nothing to think about beyond that.