Sunday, June 9, 2013

Horror: ‘Breaking the Silence’ releases women’s frightful testimonies of occupation

"Do you know what it means to serve in the occupied Palestinian territories?" With these words, Breaking the Silence has released stunning new testimonies from former soldiers, six Israeli women.

Very upsetting. Raw brutalization and debasement. Who cannot weep when they hear these women's stories of degradation? This society has lost its soul, and these brave witnesses are open about the damage, so as to try and save Israel and Palestine-- the politics are irrelevant to this work.

Full testimonies here. In the video excerpts above, the women describe the brutalization of the Palestinians, enforced by debasing peer pressure among the soldiers:

"You can't think that they're good hardworking people trying to survive in a closed, place."
"Later I realized that in order to be there you have to break them, break their spirit. Breaking them means making them wait, blindfolding them, treating them badly, writing 'Death to Arabs' on their vests."
"Putting cigarettes out on them."

One describes a smiling girl who transforms into the "roadblock queen," a tyrant adored by Israeli soldiers.

Several describe routine thefts from Palestinians: of prayer beads, pottery, food. What is wrong with taking gifts? one said to herself.

Another: We could do whatever we wanted.

And the psychic damage of oppression is foremost in these women's minds. That's why they're coming forward. One says she paid a high high price for her service, and so has her entire society.

"People don't know what's going on there."

Here is a link to all the new women's testimonies. See the ghastly headlines: "Slap," "Collective Punishment," "Flak Jackets with 'Death to Arabs Written on Them'" "Throwing them into the sewage pit," "Because I'm bored," "Settler violence." More

Breaking the Silence: Testimonies of female soldiers.

These testimonies seek to tell the Israeli public and international community what it means to be a woman serving in the territories. In order to prove oneself as a woman soldier, one needs to be "more manly than a man". Often, for female soldiers to become "one of the guys," it means that they must use violence and show force in their everyday tasks. The testimonies paint a difficult picture, whereby whoever isn't willing to be violent and abusive finds herself socially ostracized. As female soldiers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), we also had to beat, detain, humiliate and intimidate Palestinians. We weren't supposed to tell our families and friends what we did and what it means to serve in the territories.
As women, exposing our identities through these testimonies is especially complex and difficult. We have less legitimacy to talk about what is happening in the OPT and our involvement in implementing the occupation.
This is an opportunity to have our voices heard both as soldiers and women, and to take part in opposing the Israeli control over Palestinians. This is also an opportunity for us to face up to our actions and take responsibility for them.
We hope that our choice to testify and speak publicly will encourage other women who served in the OPT to join us and speak openly about their military service. More