Monday, August 27, 2012
Testimonies by 30 former Israeli soldiers and commanders portrayed a culture of violence and abuse in the Israeli Defence Forces towards Palestinian children, according to a report released yesterday to international media and detailed in a major article in this weekend's Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's biggest-selling newspaper.
Debate about the treatment of Palestinian children has grown since 60 of Israel's leading child experts, academics and psychologists wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu protesting against "offensive arrests and investigations that ignore the law."
The new report is by Breaking the Silence, an organisation of former Israeli soldiers who came together in 2004 and have now collected more than 850 testimonies from former and current Israeli soldiers and commanders about abuses they committed or witnessed.
In response to the report, the IDF told The Weekend Australian: "Breaking the Silence has been asked numerous times to reveal the testimonies and claims they collect regarding IDF activity prior to publication in order to check and verify their claims.
"As a matter of policy, the organisation chooses not to provide the IDF and other relevant bodies with the critical material necessary for investigation. By compiling testimonies over long periods of time and refusing to provide additional detail, (Breaking the Silence) proves its true intentions - rather than facilitating proper investigation, the organisation seeks to generate negative publicity regarding the IDF and its soldiers."
In response, Yehuda Shaul from Breaking the Silence said: "Over 70 of our testifiers have come out publicly with their names and identities revealed, and I'm one of them. If the IDF was interested in investigating our claims, we probably would have already been summoned to interrogations."
The report coincided with an escalation of violence against Palestinians. Israeli police described as "a lynching" an incident in Jerusalem this week in which dozens of people watched a mob of Jewish teenagers bash a 17-year-old Palestinian unconscious.
The Israeli media said the group had been roaming the city chanting "Death to Arabs" until they came across the teenager.
"They were looking to hurt an Arab," the police said. Separately, six Palestinians, including a five-year-old boy, were burned but not killed when a group, believed to be Jewish settlers, threw explosives at their bus.
The US State Department now defines attacks by Jewish settlers as terrorism.
Also this week, Israeli soldiers were caught on video bashing Palestinian journalists clearly marked as "press". The Foreign Press Association wrote to the IDF: "The soldiers shown attacking our colleagues are acting like a bunch of thugs."
The IDF is investigating.
The new report is by soldiers who served in and around the West Bank and Gaza Strip from 2005 to last year.
Despite a High Court ruling against using children as "human shields", former soldiers said this practice continues.
The report said the testimonies "serve as witness to the ongoing slide of the military system toward increasing immorality."
One former soldier said his commander beat a Palestinian boy "to a pulp" - so hard he broke his stick. "That kid was such a mess, broken apart," he said.
He said the commander, in front of the boy's parents, then put a gun-barrel in the boy's mouth saying: "Anyone gets close, I kill him. Don't annoy me."
Another said when soldiers were bored they would provoke a riot. "We'd go up to the windows of a mosque, smash the panes, throw in a stun grenade make a big boom, the we'd get a riot," he said.
"At best, in the middle of prayers - that annoys them the most."
One former soldier from the Kfir Brigade said a soldier would put children against a wall and hit them between the legs. He made them sing the Israeli national anthem "and if they didn't sing on beat, they'd get a blow with that rod to their knee".
A former member of the navy said every morning shots would be fired at children in Gaza "to the point that fire was directed at their legs, at kids who stood on the beach or rode a surfboat into the water." One commander was said to have thrown a stun grenade towards a seven-year-old to make him run away.
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this Blog!