Because this Thursday’s UN report concerns Israeli torture of Palestinian children, most Americans will question its validity. Officials allege that IDF (Israeli Defense Force) soldiers not only use Arab children as human shields, but also abuse them while they're in IDF custody. Now I know this is not something we want to hear. When I condemned the Israeli occupation in this article two months ago, I received praise, but a lot of criticism. And I can accept that. Israel is a harsh reality to wrap one’s head around. What began as a thoughtful idea, ended in war crimes. And we, either by desire or apathy, have played a great hand in its continuation.
But this article is not about my impressions of Palestine. When it comes to the conflict, anyone alien to the region — whether by ethnicity, nationality, or religious affiliation — is to some degree an illegitimate voice. But Israelis themselves have been talking about the conditions in Palestine. IDF soldiers even. Here are some of those voices.
1. Breaking the Silence (NGO)
Created by ex-IDF soldiers, Breaking the Silence allows soldiers a safe space to talk about their time in duty. That includes every and anything from their own crimes to their friends' crimes, to their emotions and motivations. They have a database of written and video confessions, which are categorized into subdivisions such as "Looting" or "Bribery" or "Human Shields" or "Abuse." Breaking the Silence has also published a number of testimony compilations that are free to download.
Skip to 0:31 to see a former IDF officer, also just published in the British paper The Independent, talk about her service. Read it here.
2. The Punishment of Gaza by Gideon Levy
This book, which spans four years — 2005 to 2009 — chronicles Israeli atrocities in Gaza. This is a period of time when Israel had technically "liberated" Gaza by pulling out its military presence. But Levy, an Israeli journalist who was born in Tel Aviv, shows a true picture of the times.
Israel's Supreme Court legalized "collective warfare" against Gazans. Meaning that although Israel's grievances were with Hamas, Gaza's elected government, Israel's aggression was directed toward all citizens, men, women, and children alike. Many were murdered. And water, electricity, and fuel were cut off to its citizens. Specifically concerning the limited resources, Israeli Supreme Court President, Dorit Beinisch, ruled that Israeli tactics were justified "since even diminished qualities sufficiently met humanitarian needs." Yet as far as Article 33 of the Geneva Convention is concerned, "collective punishment" is unjustifiable and forbidden.
In 2010, Columbia University held a press conference with Levy on his. Anyone looking for fascinating insight into the mechanics of Israeli psyche, click here.
3. Five Broken Cameras, directedby Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi
This Oscar-nominated film is in part the work of a Palestinian farmer, and in part the work of an Israeli director. The collaboration is told from Burnat's point of view, or more specifically the point of view of his video camera. Over the course of a few years, these cameras are broken again and again, usually by IDF officers. And in those years, he captures IDF and settler abuse, as the Israeli government decides to blow down olive groves in Bil'in in order to build an illegal Jewish settlement. The film is a compelling compilation of scenes that allow the Israelis involved to truly speak for themselves.
4. B'Tselem (NGO)
This Israeli group was created in 1989 by academics, journalists, attorneys, and members of the Knesset (the Israeli Congress). They are dedicated to "document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories." The organization has compiled a number of things from statistics — such as detainee rates, fatalities, and property-destruction rates — and presented them to newsletters and journals. They really are worth a look. View their website here.
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