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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Israël : accablants récits de soldats

by Rosa Moussaoui

Israel: Soldiers’ Damning Testimonials

Translated Saturday 1 September 2012, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Bill Scoble

In a black book, the NGO Breaking the Silence has compiled soldiers’ testimony on the violence and the human rights violations to which Palestinian children are subjected.

“The Palestinian children came out of school at the end of the day, went directly home and made a lot of noise with their firecrackers. It’s absurd, I don’t know where our stupid battalion commander got this idea: we began to pursue the children during our patrols. /…/ One of them was really small. Maybe four or five years old. A really small child, with his brother. Maybe he was even in kindergarten… And you carry out a body search on him. On him and on his brother, who is barely older. /…/ Unbelievable. I felt so immoral, I felt so inhuman…”

This incredible scene took place in Hebron. It is described by a non-commissioned officer in the Israeli army. His story was recorded by the NGO Breaking the Silence, which has been collecting the accounts of soldiers who served in the occupied territories for several years now. These thousands of hours of interviews, filmed or transcribed, attest to the barbarism of the occupation, from war crimes down to everyday humiliation, to which Palestinians are subjected when going through the checkpoints. In a new black book, the NGO has compiled the damning accounts of the violence and the serious human rights violations that target Palestinian children. Minors are not spared permanent suspicion, arbitrary arrests, physical maltreatment and even being shot at with real bullets, according to these statements by Israeli soldiers.

“The testimonies illuminate the realities of everyday life for Palestinian children and youth who live under Israeli occupation,” the authors of the report write. “The testifiers depict a routine in which Palestinian minors, often under 10 years of age, are treated in a manner that ignores their young age, and how, in practicality, they are perceived by both the soldiers and the military system at large as subject to the same treatment as adults. Physical violence, accompanied by harassment and humiliation, is often arbitrarily exerted against these children.”

Young lives traumatized

Throughout the unedited testimonials gathered each year by Breaking the Silence, children are omnipresent. They are exposed to the traumatism represented by searches or the destruction of a home by the Israeli army. A captain describes the terror of young siblings during a house search in these terms: “I enter a house, there’s a woman there /…/ I go in and I ask her: ‘Where’s the man of the house?’ Nobody understands, nobody. Then I see a mattress covered with a blanket. Trembling is moving it. And I … I don’t know, maybe he’s hiding in there. I tell my soldier: “Go quick and see what’s under the bed’ and he tries to pull the blanket, and no, it’s … I count them, there are eight of them – eight children huddled together, frightened to death. They’re hiding one behind the other, they’re staring at me, as if the next moment I was going to do I don’t know what to them /…/ I came out of there in a state of shock.”

But what’s the terror of a child when, in the name of security, you can justify anything?

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