Testimony - "What is that job really?"
|Nablus, West Bank
A former Israeli soldier provides a testimony to Breaking the Silence in which he describes the Israeli military tactics employed on the Palestinian civilian population in the West Bank.
Soldier: We moved to the Ari’el area, near Nablus. We were in charge of the entire road that crossed the West Bank from west to east, all the way up to the checkpoint at Tapuach Junction. Our designated mission was to prevent acts of terrorism. Simply handle the population. We would enter villages on a daily basis, at least twice or three times a day, to make our presence felt, and … it was like we were occupying them. Showing we’re there, that the area is ours, not theirs.
Interviewer: How is this done?
Soldier: A patrol goes in, or two patrols, two hummers secured by a jeep, and raise hell inside the villages. A whole company may be sent in on foot in two lines like a military parade in the streets, provoking riots, provoking children. The commander is bored and wants to show off to his battalion commander, and he does it at the expense of his subordinates. He wants more and more friction, just to grind the population, make their lives more and more miserable, and to discourage them from throwing stones, to not even think about throwing stones at the main road. Not to mention Molotov cocktails and other things. Practically speaking, it worked. The population was so scared that they shut themselves in. They hardly came out. Earlier I recall a lot of cabs with people on their way to work near the main road. Then it hardly existed any more. The whole village shut itself in. This just shows what a company commander is capable of doing.
Interviewer: What level does this reach? What is he able to do?
Soldier: At first you point your gun at some five-year-old kid, and feel bad afterwards, saying it’s not right. Then you get to a point where … you get so nervous and sick of going into a village and getting stones thrown at you. But it’s obvious, you’re inside the village, you’ve just passed the school house, naturally the kids will throw stones at you. Once my driver got out, and without blinking, just grabbed some kid and beat him to a pulp. And that kid was just sitting in the street and looked like some other kid, or wore another kid’s shirt, or perhaps he was that kid but that’s not the point. He beat him to a pulp. Didn’t detain him. Just beat him. And I remember they had this pool hall. There were already the more 'serious’ guys, the ones who throw Molotov cocktails. In order to get them out, detain and interrogate them, we’d catch them – my company commander caught a 12-year-old kid there once, and made him get down on his knees in the middle of the street. Yelled like a madman – it looked like some Vietnam War movie – so that the other guys come out or else he’ll do something really bad to them. He’d do something to that kid. I knew it was just a hollow threat, and after all the guy’s an officer, and I don’t think an officer would do anything, but …
Interviewer: Actually shackled him?
Soldier: He had a plastic shackle. I remember it was raining. We went in, and as usual stones were thrown at us. My communications man who runs fast caught this kid who supposedly threw stones, shackled him and took him to the company commander. Brought him back to this place in front of that pool hall. The vehicles were parked there. He got him down on his knees and yelled as if …
Interviewer: In Arabic?
Soldier: No, in Hebrew, very loud so that the kids from that club would come out so we could interrogate them. They didn’t come out on their own.
Interviewer: What did he yell at the kid?
Soldier: He yelled at him to shut up and the kid cried of course … He also peed in his pants, in front of the whole village. He got him on his knees and began to scream in Hebrew, to swear at him: 'Those fucking kids from the club should come out now!’ 'Get those whores out!’ 'Let him be scared!’ 'Look what I can do!’ 'I’ll show this kid.’ Finally the kids didn’t come out, but we always had in mind that image of the old Arab with his keffiya and stick. Regardless if there’s shooting or stones, no matter what, he’s a kid in the middle of the street. Kids and soldiers both would respect him. So this old guy comes along and somehow convinces my company commander to release the kid. And that’s how that episode ended. We got out of there. The next day two Molotov cocktails were thrown at the main road. So we didn’t really do our job. And you wonder what that job really is.