A new booklet by Breaking the Silence compiles dozens of accounts by former Israeli combat soldiers who served in the South Hebron Hills of the occupied West Bank.
Text by Rachel Shenhav-Goldberg
In 2012, two Israeli residents of Mitzpe Yair, an unauthorized settlement in the Hebron Hills, spontaneously attacked an elderly, unarmed Palestinian man, beating him so badly that he was hospitalized. Since Israel is, according to the Oslo Accords, obligated to regulate all aspects of civilian life in the occupied territories, soldiers from a nearby army base were deployed to search for the perpetrators.
The search was desultory and unsuccessful; the soldiers were ordered back to base within a couple of hours. During a debriefing the next morning, one of the soldiers asked his commanding officer what they should do if the reverse happened — i.e., what if they saw two Palestinian residents of the same area spontaneously attacking an unarmed Jewish settler? The officer’s curt response: “Shoot to kill.”
One of the soldiers at that briefing recounted the incident, which received almost no coverage in the Israeli media, to Breaking the Silence, an organization of veteran Israeli combat soldiers that works to raise awareness about the occupation. His account is one of 41 collected from former combat soldiers who served in the area; they are compiled in a new publication called The South Hebron Hills: Soldiers’ Testimonies, 2010-2016.
The purpose of the book is set out in the introduction, which presents the organization’s mandate: by collecting the data Breaking the Silence seeks to present a clear picture of the “systemic and institutionalized” discrimination between Israeli settlers and Palestinian residents that defines Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank. They believe that by recording and presenting this information to the public, they will raise the awareness that is a first step toward ending the occupation.
The report shows the effect of discriminatory law enforcement, with settlers treated as privileged citizens while Palestinians have almost no rights at all. Not only does this policy perpetuate the occupation and oppress the Palestinians, it also allows settler riots like the one that occurred in mid-October, with settlers from Yitzhar attacking volunteers from Rabbis for Human Rights while they harvested olives with Palestinian farmers.
Reading the testimonies is a harrowing experience; in the aggregate, alongside the data, they make...Read More