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WATCH: Former female Israeli soldiers break their silence

This post is dedicated to former IDF soldier and whistleblower Anat Kamm, a brave woman currently doing time in Israeli jail.

On May 10th, Breaking the Silence –  an organization of veteran IDF soldiers who collect testimonies from soldiers about their past service in the occupied Palestinian territories – released a series of new video testimonies by former female soldiers who testify on camera to the harsh reality of the occupation they participated in and witnessed.

This campaign is of special significance to me because it gives voice to the women who comprise Israel’s army and its mechanism for continued occupation and oppression, happening within a society (local and global) in which, as women, they already exist in a gender power dynamic of systematic discrimination and violence.

They are the ones who can spend two years of their lives serving coffee in uniform, the ones subject almost exclusively to orders from male superiors – from the officers, to the generals, to the chief of staff and defense minister; the ones who are automatically considered less suitable to serve the country because they cannot serve in all the combat units; the ones who need to be much more creative and determined if they want to succeed in Israeli society without following its social norms.

Here is the BTS press release on the campaign, followed by several videos:

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 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.

Related:
Israeli occupation: You have to see it to believe it

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Mairav, a few years ago they also compiled a book of women’s testimonies. You’ll know it already, but here is the link to the English version for anyone who hasn’t and wants to read: http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Women_Soldiers_Testimonies_2009_Eng.pdf . Most interesting for me is that these women’s testimonies contain some of the most vivid and precise descriptions of trauma-related mental health problems from a sufferer’s perspective that I’ve ever read (the first one to do this is #4) and their authors seem quite unconscious of it. (#56 is a bright spot – the woman testifying is extremely self-aware, and she shows a lot of resilience in the way that she tried to help other soldiers, eventually being told by her officer, “You’re turning my men into cunts.”)

      Reply to Comment
      • Mairav Zonszein

        Thanks Vicky.

        Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        “You’re turning my men into cunts.”
        You can’t say that in Hebrew.

        Reply to Comment
        • I’ve just checked the Hebrew version of the book, which gives it as

          מה הוא אמר לך?
          ש ”את עושה מהחיילים שלי כוסיות”.

          Seems pretty clear to me. I asked two native speakers if this is uncommon phrasing, and they both said no. It seems that you will clutch at the flimsiest straws imaginable to try and cast doubt on the validity of these testimonies. It would be better if you could listen to people’s experiences without immediately having that defensive reaction

          Reply to Comment
    2. Aislin

      Thx Vicky for the very intresting link of the book.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Jenny

      nitpicking – but you should translate that as ‘pussies’ (ie, weaklings) not ‘cunts’ (ie, utter bastards).

      Reply to Comment
    4. The correct translation of
      את עושה מהחיילים שלי כוסיות

      Is “You are turning my soldiers into pussies.”

      Reply to Comment
    5. Joel

      Pussies.Cunts.Whatever.

      I believe every word of testimony and I fully support the efforts of Breaking the Silence and these soldiers who came forward.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Deborah Nothmann

      As I see it, the biggest problem right now is trying to get people to see what has happened. there are no Israelis under 40 who experienced an Israel without access to the West Bank. There are no Israelis who can grasp the fact that once we had no contact with the Palestinian population. We have become so used to subjugating another people instead of trying to make peace with these neighbors. At the same time, we cannot relate this behavior to what was done to us in Europe 75 years ago. We are too busy forgetting our and their humanity. I do not know if it is possible to get people to want to change. And if we manage to, will the Palestinians accept our new attitude and be willing to forget the past?

      Reply to Comment
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