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Home » Soldiers »

Testimony- "This system needs violence, that's its basis."


Name:  Anonymous
Rank:  Lieutenant
Unit:  Nahal, 932nd Battalion
Location:  Hebron, West Bank
Date:  2015

An Israeli soldier provides a testimony to Breaking the Silence explaining why he chose to speak out. "This system needs violence, that's its basis. The system of repressing the population there. Otherwise it wouldn't work, because the settlement in Hebron is an island in a huge Palestinian city."

Soldier: "You never need a court order when you search a Palestinian's home. You just have to want to do it and then you do it. It's not like when you're an Israeli civilian and a policeman wants to enter your home, he either needs a well-founded suspicion that you're committing a crime, or for someone to be in danger, or a court order stating that he has the authority to search and find evidence. In Hebron, if you're a Palestinian, I'll enter your house whenever I feel like it, and search for whatever I want and I'll turn your house upside down if I want to. The same applies, for that matter, to a foot patrol that just wants to rest on someone's roof and scout the area. Or, say, every time vehicles are stopped at Abu-Sneina, which is the neighborhood adjacent to the Jewish neighborhood there, so you always put a soldier or two on the roof to scout and see who's arriving from far off, who's throwing stones, where from, and stuff like that. You simply open up their home, tell them 'get out of the way, we’re going up to your roof to scout.' You already know that they'll shout and object, [and] you know that it doesn’t matter, because you're going to go up to theroof."

Interviewer: "What do you do when they start to shout and object?"

Soldier: "You shout louder and they get it. I mean, they're not dumb, most of them. They know you'll arrest them or you'll hit them, and in the end you'll get on the roof. They won't stop you from going up to the roof."

Interviewer: "They understand who has the power."

Soldier: Yes. Listen, that's the craziest thing about Hebron. When you leave, everything just continues. It's not that it's a few months and then it ends, it's really people’s lives. As we speak, right now – if anyone were to hear this in the future – it is still happening. I hope it won't happen in the future. These things that I'm telling, they're happening right now. Right now there's a soldier on a roof who argued with the owner of the house, and eventually got on the roof. Many times it’s, say, a woman who stayed at home, a housewife, and she's scared to death because of the soldiers entering without her having anyone with her, and they go up to the roof through the house anyway. Wow, I actually never thought about how frightening it must be for these housewives. So in short, you simply enter the house and they have no... There isn't even any discussion about, like, rights. To have rights, you need a system that enforces law and order, and over there nobody even acknowledges them. The things that we completely take for granted. Like, any person would demand some kind of basic respect from a policeman. The privilege of being innocent until proven guilty – this isn’t even part of the lexicon there. Not even close. It’s light years away from the discourse there on... Really, like I said, whoever commands that mission at the moment is the village sheriff. He’ll do as he pleases."

Interviewer: "You are undoubtedly an example of a soldier who thinks, who understands what he's doing. During the arrests you carried out, for example, when you would turn people's homes upside down, what did you feel?"

Soldier: I kept myself in the state of mind of a mission. That is to say, I have a mission, there could be weapons here, and I'm like going to prevent the killing of Jews. That’s what carried me through. The arrests of drug [dealers] - you simply do it because, what, now you'll go to jail for refusing an order when you're told to arrest some drug dealer? And I also had a very clear responsibility, that I'm not saving the world now, I'm leading my platoon, and I also want to build a good platoon, a platoon with accomplishments, so that they’ll also feel that they're doing something during this draining service in Hebron. So every mission beyond patrolling or guarding - you immediately jump on it. You want to carry out arrests, you want to get those missions also in order to show your guys that you get things [to do], and that you're trusted. So anything like that you say: fine, I'll do the drug arrests to practice for arresting terrorists or what they call hostile terrorist activity."

Interviewer: "But what do you say to yourself after turning someone's home upside down?"
Soldier: "I remember that guys came to me, asked to talk to an officer from the post. I went out to talk to them, we had this talk at Tel Rumeida, with the whole view there, and there were all sorts of questions about violence toward Palestinians, and it was actually the more right-wing guys who asked about all sorts of things... I told them at the time, listen, I'm not going to tell you my opinion about Hebron, but as an IDF officer I must carry out certain orders to preserve stateliness. As if stateliness was the loftiest value for me. It's very 'Ben Gurionish,' like, you need statism, and you need unity of command, and at some point the leadership will come to its senses and... but I'll do my part and whatever is needed. And I told them: listen, there's violence here, it's not as if there isn't violence. Like, this system needs violence, that's its basis.
Interviewer: "What system?"
Soldier: "The system of repressing the population there. Otherwise it wouldn't work, because the settlement in Hebron is an island in a huge Palestinian city. I mean, you have to use so much force to maintain the order there, that even if you bring 200 Buddhist monks, they would have to use violence to maintain order and prevent riots on a daily basis. So I told them: listen, if I won't be here, Jews will be murdered, and I don't want Jews to be murdered, so I'm here, and I, like, do it. And even the violence there, I told them, like: 'What should I break the silence about? Some slapping around? About beatings I saw? About stuff like that?' Like, I mean, I thought it was so obvious. They always say, 'So why didn't you report these things to the Military Police Criminal Investigation Division?’ Well, you don't call the transport ministry when traffic lights are working as they should. And that's the feeling, that violence is just a traffic light working as it should, and that's the system and you do what you have to do and..."
Interviewer: "What you're saying is that these 'slaps' are part of how the system works?"
Soldier: "Yes, exactly. That's like the norm. It's shitty. It's all sorts of self-deception that keeps you going. It's ridiculous to put on 18-year-old kids the responsibility for what the guys in ties are doing in the Knesset and government ministries. At least, that's my opinion. That's what kept me together during my service in the territories. Later on, when I was released and I suddenly digested all I went through, only then did I understand how... I don't even know what to say about it. How it's a stain that won't be removed from this flag that I was so enthusiastic about, of Zionism and stateliness and, like, the homeland."
Interviewer: "That's a difficult moment."
Soldier: "Yes, it was very difficult. I had a few very difficult months. I can’t continue to cooperate with this abusive treatment of the Palestinian population for some anachronistic fantasy of a Jewish kingdom in Judea and Samaria. Like, that's not what I'm going to do with my life."