Soldiers speak out – a decade of testimonies from the occupation

May 5, 2011
Sarah Benton

Breaking The Israel/Palestine Silence
Thursday, 5 May 2011
Devised by Richard Morris

Based on the book
Occupation of The Territories
Israel Soldier Testimonies 2000-2010

Every individual word spoken by the Soldiers and the Questioner is from the testimonies given by the soldiers of their own free will to the publisher’s representatives.

Soldiers 1-10 Male and Female
The Poet


Narrator. Two Rabbis visiting Palestine in 1897 with the instructions to ascertain the possibilities of colonising the land as a Jewish home reported that the land was like a bride, ”beautiful but married to another man”.

The Poet “A Jewish State would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population. It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse the border area and cleanse the main roads. It was necessary to cleanse the villages from which our convoys and our settlements were fired at”.
Benny Morris, Israeli historian

The Poet. We shall try and spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for them in transit countries whilst denying them employment here. The property owners will come over to our side. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discretely and circumspectly. Let the owner of the immoveable property believe that they are cheating us, selling us things for more than they are worth. But we are not going to sell them anything back.
Theodor Herzl. Diary in 1895

Narrator We must expel Arabs and take their places…
and if we have to use force…then we have force at our disposal.
David Ben Gurion 1937

Ten soldiers seated. They stand.

All Soldiers say
The Spirit of The Israeli Defence Force is based on the Purity of Arms

The IDF serviceman will use force of arms only for the purpose of subduing the enemy to the necessary extent and will limit his use of force so as to prevent unnecessary harm to human life and limb, dignity and property. They will use their arms without inflicting unnecessary injury with special consideration for the defenceless, whether in wartime, or during routine security operations which means the restrained use of weapons and their power in the implementation of missions, only to the extent necessary for their attainment.
The soldiers sit.

Narrator. Lt Colonel Dov Yirmiah, the oldest soldier to serve in Lebanon wrote that the behavior of his troops was governed by hatred of Arabs and a feeling of revenge.

The Poet. At times…I wish
I could meet in a duel
The man who killed my father
And razed our home
Expelling me
Into a narrow country
Taha Muhammad Ali, Palestinian poet

Narrator. Breaking The Silence

Bloomberg, Ramallah, 2001

unit: Paratroopers • location: South Hebron Hills • year: 2001
Palestinian detainees in an IDF vehicle. Nahal Brigade, 50th Battalion

Soldier 1. I didn’t know what a “demonstration of presence” really meant.
They gave instructions to do some patrol inside. I think it was Yatta.

Questioner..Is that what’s called “a demonstration of presence?”

Soldier 1. A demonstration of presence.

Questioner Was it an order? Would you do it all the time?

Soldier 1. No, that’s it…I didn’t get to do it a lot. There were a few specific cases. Meaning I got to do a demonstration of presence once or twice, but that specifically I know it wasn’t OK, I’ll explain right away. When we went in, we went in with that officer and another officer, and us. I personally as a soldier knew that there was an order to do a patrol, to do a “demonstration of presence.” I didn’t know what a “demonstration of presence” really meant. They went in, like basically all of us went in…we had an APC and a security patrol jeep if I’m not mistaken, and they fired rounds. Like the officers were…one was on the APC, you know, he aimed the APC so he had a MAG machine gun. We also fired our weapons sometimes…the officer would fire some more.

Questioner. Fire in the air? Live rounds?

Soldier 1. No, at houses, at garbage cans, things like that.

Questioner Shooting at a home means at the walls, the windows?

Soldier 1. Both. Garbage cans, water heaters, things like that. Now the thing is, what became clear after the fact, we later heard on the radio, someone reported that he heard the shots from Yatta or the village that we were in, I don’t remember. So, no one knew……meaning they knew we were there, and they asked if we saw something, so the officers said: “No.” Apparently, I wasn’t near the radio at that point, but when we returned after the fact they said, the deputy company commander asked: “What, how could it be you didn’t hear anything there, they fired off rounds like crazy. So they said they didn’t hear anything. And basically it seems that they weren’t supposed to fire a single bullet, it was really meant to be a patrol with the APC, you know, just for show occupation of the territories

Narrator. 2 unit: Paratroopers • location: Nablus District • year: 2003
Stun grenades at three in the morning
Soldier 1. We had all kinds of situations of very dubious work in Area A [i.e. under the control of the Palestinian Authority]. If that means going in on Friday, when the market is packed, in Tubas for example, to make a checkpost – a surprise checkpoint – in the middle of the village. One time, we arrived to make a surprise checkpoint like that on Friday morning, and we started to spread out as if at a checkpoint: inspecting vehicles and every car that passed. 300 meters from us a small demonstration of kids who were throwing rocks started, but they went maybe ten meters, and weren’t hitting us. They starting cursing us and everything. At the same time people start gathering. Of course it was followed with the aiming of weapons at the kids, you can call it self-defense.

Questioner. What was the point of the checkpoint?

Soldier 1. To show the presence of the IDF inside the village. Inside the village, where the women go shopping, where the children play, just to show presence, and to enter a firefight, which within a second we didn’t know if we would get it there. In the end we got out without a scratch, without anything happening, but the company commander lost it. He asked one of the grenade launchers to fire a riot control grenade toward the demonstrators, the children. The grenade launcher refused, and afterwards he was treated terribly by the company commander. He didn’t receive a punishment because the company commander knew it was an illegal order, but he was treated really disgustingly by the staff. In the end that’s how it ended.
Another story was going into Tubas at three in the morning in a safari, with stun grenades and just throwing them in the street. For no reason, waking people up.

Questioner. For what purpose?

Soldier 1. We are here. The IDF is here.” In general, they told us that some terrorist, if he were to hear the IDF presence in the village then maybe he would leave. He never left. It seems that the objective was just to show the local population that the IDF is here, and it’s a policy which repeats itself: “The IDF is here, in the territories, and we’ll make your life bitter until you decide to stop the terror.” The IDF has no problem with it. We, after the fact, the objective was to show the local population that the IDF was there, it’s a policy that repeats itself… “The IDF is here, in the territories, and we’ll make your life hell until you decide to stop the terror. The ones who were throwing the grenades didn’t understand why we were doing it. We threw a grenade. We heard the “boom” and we saw people waking up. When we got back they said to us: “Great operation,” but we didn’t understand why. It was every day. A different force from the company each time, part of the routine. Not an especially positive way of life

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