Undisclosed Reservist unit, Gaza Strip 2009, Operation Cast Lead
The actual objective remained rather vague. We were told our objective was to fragment the Strip, in fact we were told that while we were there, not knowing how long, we would have to raze the area as much as possible. Razing is a euphemism for systematic destruction. Two reasons were given for house demolitions. One reason was operational. That's when a house is suspected to contain explosive, tunnels, when all kinds of wires are seen, or digging. Or we have intelligence information making it suspect. Or it's a source of fire, whether light arms or mortars, missiles, Grads [rockets], all that stuff. Those are houses we demolish.
Then we're told some will be destroyed for "the day after". The rationale is to leave a sterile area behind us and the best way to do that is by razing it. In practical terms, it means you take a house that's not suspect, its only transgression is that it stands on a hill in Gaza. I can even say that in a talk with my battalion commander, he mentioned this and said half smiling, half sad, that this is something to add to his list of war crimes. So he himself understood there was a problem.
SERGEANT TAL WASSER
2006-09, Oketz (canine special forces), Nablus
Standing at the roadblock for eight hours a day puts everyone under this endless pressure. Everyone's constantly yelling, constantly nervous, impatient … venting on the first Palestinian to cross your path. If a Palestinian annoys one of the soldiers, one of the things they'd do is throw him in the Jora, which is a small cell, like a clothing store dressing room. They close the metal door on him and that would be his punishment for annoying, for being bad.
Within all the pressure and the stress of the roadblock, the Palestinian would often be forgotten there. No one would remember that he put a Palestinian there, further emphasising the irrelevance and insignificance of the reason he was put there in the first place. Sometimes it was only after hours that they'd suddenly remember to let him out and continue the inspection at the roadblock.
2001-03, Sachlav (military police), Hebron
On my first or second day in Hebron, my commanders asked me to go on a "doll", a foot patrol that we conduct in the casbah and Jewish settlement. I agreed, it seemed cool. It was my first time in the field, come on, let's do it. We went on patrol, into the casbah, and I think that was the first time I sensed the existential fear of living under constant threat.
We started the doll and I started feeling bad. The first time in the field is not simple. One of my commanders, the veteran among them, took an old Palestinian man, just took him aside to some alley and started beating him up. And I … it wasfine by all the others … I sort of looked at them and said: "What is he doing? Why is he doing that? What happened? Did he do anything? Is he a threat? A terrorist? Did we find something?" So they said: "No, it's OK." I then approached my commander, the [one] who trained me, and asked: "What are you doing?" He said: "Gil, stop it."
And that really scared me. I was scared of their reactions, of the situation we were in. I felt bad with what went on there, but I kept quiet. I mean, what can I do? My commander told me to shut up. We left there and went back to the company and I went to my commander and said: "What are you doing? Why did you do that?" So he said: "That's the way it is. It's either him or me and it's me and …"
They took him aside and just beat him up. They beat him up, they punched him. And slapped him, all for no reason. I mean, he just happened to walk by there, by mistake.
Stories from an occupation: the Israelis who broke silence
A group called Breaking the Silence has spent 10 years collecting accounts from Israeli soldiers who served in the Palestinian territories. To mark the milestone, 10 hours' worth of testimony was read to an audience in Tel Aviv. Here we print some extracts
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Christians having dreams and converting to Islam: