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breaking the silence

  • How an army of defense became an army of vengeance

    I will never forget the evening my friends and I were sent to kill Palestinian police officers in a revenge attack. We went from soldiers sent to defend our families to murderers of innocent people. By O.K. A month has passed since we were informed of the kidnapping of Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel. Ever since, there has been unrest in the region. Along with their families, we all hoped for good news, and mourned with them when the teens’ bodies were found. However, over the past few weeks our computer screens and our streets have been filled…

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  • When Israeli soldiers 'provoke and react,' Palestinians die

    Despite Netanyahu's claims of 'self-defense,' testimony by Israeli soldiers suggests that mounting Palestinian casualties are the result of intentionally provocative tactics. Text by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler Photos by: Ahmad Al-Bazz and Oren Ziv/Activestills.org In response to the mounting numbers of Palestinian deaths, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered the excuse that Israeli military action in the West Bank “entails a certain friction with the civilian population,” and that “we have no intention of deliberately harming anyone but our forces are acting as necessary for self-defense and from time to time there are victims or casualties on the Palestinian side as a…

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  • Photos of the week: Devastation for the Negev Bedouin

    This week: The Bedouin village of Al-Arakib is destroyed for the 65th time, Palestinians and Israelis commemorate 47 years of occupation, administrative detainees on hunger strike, Israeli soldiers break their silence in public, demonstrations against asylum seekers in south Tel Aviv and more.                       

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  • 'I realized violence came from settlers, not Palestinians'

    On the occasion of 10 years since the founding of Breaking the Silence, a former IDF soldier talks about how he came to understand the immorality of the mission his country sent him on, and Israeli society’s silence surrounding it. By Shay Davidovich The drive down Highway 5, heading east into the Occupied Territories, can be deceptive. The wide road and pastoral landscape almost succeed in obscuring the barbed wire fences and heavy military presence. I know this road quite well. It leads to the settlement of Ariel, where I grew up and lived most of my life. Much of…

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  • Public reading of soldier testimonies to be held in Tel Aviv on anniversary of occupation

     Avner Gvaryahu, spokesperson for the anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence: 'We want as many public figures as possible to assume responsibility, in broad daylight, for the kind of stories every soldier knows to tell.' Breaking the Silence, an organization made up of ex-IDF soldiers that seeks to expose the reality of the occupation, is organizing a public reading of soldier testimonies from the West Bank and Gaza in central Tel Aviv's Habima Square. The event will mark the 10 year anniversary of the organization, which has taken a leading role in documenting Israel's control over the Palestinians in the West Bank…

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  • A new settlement is born in Hebron

    As peace talks teeter, three families move into what will be the first new settlement in Hebron since the 1980s - with the full support and blessing of the army. Three Israeli settler families moved into a contested home in the West Bank Palestinian city of Hebron, following a years-long legal battle and culminating on Sunday with the authorization of Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. The new, fortress-like building signifies the first new settlement in Hebron since the 1980s. The building in question, which is strategically placed between the Old City of Hebron and the major Jewish settlement of Kiryat…

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  • Breaking the Silence founder detained in Hebron, banned from city for 14 days

    The founder of IDF watchdog group Breaking the Silence (BTS), Yehuda Shaul, was detained in Hebron on Tuesday as he was leading a tour in the Jewish settlement located in the heart of the city. According to the organization's spokesperson, Avner Gvaryahu, Shaul was confronted by an IDF company commander, who prevented him from continuing on his way, despite the fact that the area is considered public space and that Jewish groups use those streets frequently. Shaul was detained after arguing with the officer. Shaul, who was released from the Hebron police station later that night, was banned from the…

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  • WATCH: 20 years since the Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre in Hebron

    Twenty years ago, on February 25, 1994, Israeli-American Jewish settler Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 people in the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, the Muslim holy site at the Cave of the Patriarchs. Goldstein’s attack with an automatic assault rifle left 125 wounded. In the wake of the massacre, its victims, the Palestinian residents of Hebron, were the ones to suffer. Once one of the city's major thoroughfares and commercial centers, Shuhada Street was closed to Palestinian vehicle and foot traffic as part of the Israeli army’s attempt to create "sterile" buffer zones between Jewish settlers and Palestinian residents in the city.…

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  • 'For Israeli soldiers, some Palestinians are little more than props'

    How can an entire army battalion pass through a village without disrupting its inhabitants? How can soldiers train with live bullets while ensuring that no one will be injured? A former IDF soldier describes the ways in which soldiers are taught to make their presence known, always at the expense of the local Palestinian population. By Shay Davidovich Just like every other year since I completed my IDF service, in the summer of 2011 I was called up for reserve duty. For a few weeks every year, no matter whether my soldiers and I are needed for training or to perform military operations,…

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  • Escaping justice: Who killed Bassem Abu Rahme?

    The IDF insists on not indicting the security officer who killed Bassem Abu Rahme during a demonstration in the West Bank village of Bil'in, despite being provided with enough details to find him. By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz In April 2009, during the weekly demonstration in the West Bank village of Bil'in, a uniformed Israeli officer fired a gas canister into the chest of demonstrator Bassem Abu Rahme, killing him. The killing was carried out in the presence of senior officers. Firing a canister at a direct trajectory is contrary to the orders of the IDF itself, not to…

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  • 'How speaking out about the occupation nearly landed me in jail'

    When even reporting an immoral act by a senior officer carries with it a serious price, it becomes clear that one cannot win against the army. Been there, done that.  In July 1989, as a young, bored soldier in the IDF's main draft base in Tel Ha'Shomer, I asked my colonel to be transferred to the Civil Administration in the Gaza Strip. We were on friendly terms and he quickly made the arrangements, walking through my first sham court martial. I was in charge of running a small garden toolshed, which was broken into while I was on vacation -…

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  • Why soldiers don't 'break the silence' to the IDF

    When Israeli soldiers admit their past abuses of Palestinians, as they did again this week, the occupation's defenders often ask: Why didn't you report this to the army at the time? A personal illustration of why it is a disingenuous question.    I was 37, a new immigrant three and half years in Israel, drafted into the IDF for a month of basic training, and I found myself dumping a truckload of garbage on the edge of a Palestinian woman's vegetable garden. She was screaming in Arabic at me and the other draftee doing the job, and the IDF driver…

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  • The soldiers' stories that Israel lacks the courage to hear

    Testimonies from former Israeli soldiers have failed to touch the Israeli public or change the state's policies.  The IDF gives an 'explanation' for why it ignores these and all  other occupation stories told by the men and women of Breaking the Silence. I used to think that Breaking the Silence, which publishes testimonies of IDF soldiers about what they see and do on occupation duty, would really strike a blow against the empire. Who could doubt the word of soldiers – by now over 900 – coming forward to, essentially, confess; who wouldn’t at least show them respect and give them…

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