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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 and Gaza.

“The Israeli public and the media are not willing to hear about what is taking place in the occupied territories,” says Avner Gvaryahu, an ex-IDF paratrooper who has been with BTS since 2007. “The story surrounding [the killing of two Palestinian teens in] Beitunia proved that. If this wasn’t caught on tape, the story wouldn’t have made headlines. The public’s reflex is to remove any responsibility from us. Nobody denies that two teens were killed, and yet this fact is not debated, and nobody needs to account for it.

Meretz leader Zehava Galon (photo: Yossi Gurvitz)

Meretz leader Zehava Galon will be among those reading testimonies in Tel Aviv (photo: Yossi Gurvitz)

“There is a better chance that we will hear about Britain’s Royal Family or what Obama wore today [in the media] than about a whole people whose future, present and past are linked to us. Our testimonies reflect a reality that is missing from the public debate. It’s not about a right-wing or left-wing media – people simply don’t want to discuss the occupation.”

The public reading will take place on Friday, June 6th and will last for ten hours, between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Among the dozens confirmed to participate are prominent academics, journalists, authors, actors, NGO workers, activists, ex-soldiers and politicians. Some of the more well-known participants are author Amos Oz and head of the leftist Meretz party, Zehava Gal-On. Journalist Amira Hass of Haarez will also read, as will +972’s Yossi Gurvitz. I recognize some of the names from various Israeli refusal movements among the participants.

“We thought it was time that those responsible for the reality in the West Bank – namely the Israeli public – break their silence on this issue. We want as many public figures as possible to assume responsibility, in broad daylight, of the kind of stories every soldier knows to tell,” says Gvaryahu. While planning the event, BTS workers did not know whether they would be able to get speakers. “We were overwhelmed with the responses we got and the number of people who wish for our society to wake up.”

Read Breaking the Silence’s testimonies:
Breaking the Silence: IDF’s treatment of Palestinian children
Read: Breaking the Silence: the occupation testimonies (part I)
The Occupation Testimonies (Part II): It’s not about security

In recent years Breaking the Silence has become a favorite target of attacks by the right; the organization is often cited by those advocating bans and restrictions on civil society organization who use international advocacy tactics in their effort to end the occupation. Recently, the right-leaning Institute for Zionist Strategist even started a “patriotic” watchdog group that would balance the work of BTS. The project, called “Blue and White Rights” is headed by Yoaz Hendel, a former spokesperson for Prime Minister Netanyahu.

“Breaking silence is a long and difficult process,” says Gvaryahu. “Israelis get bits of information on the occupation but very few really know the reality on the ground. Soldiers like us are also responsible, because we never spoke up during our service about what military control really looks like – neither with our families nor with our friends. It is very difficult to come home after two weeks of service and start talking about breaking into peoples houses, about the violence, the humiliation. It’s much easier to keep your silence. Israeli society doesn’t want to hear it, but we need to speak about the reality of prolonged occupation because recognizing it is the only road for change.”

A Palestinian prisoner held at a paratroops base in the West Bank (photo: Breaking the Silence)

A Palestinian prisoner held at a paratroops base in the West Bank (photo: Breaking the Silence)

Gvaryahu, who is now the spokesperson for the organization, is an unlikely candidate for a left-wing organization. He was raised in a national-religious family, and was named after a soldier who died in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Like his father, he volunteered for an elite paratroops unit. “I was drafted in 2004, full of faith and motivation. I served mostly around Jenin but I got to see a lot of the West Bank. I did what every soldier does – control the territory – patrols, arrests, searches. All of this was routine.

“I think it was the homes we entered – a routine in which a unit occupies a home for military purposes – that got to me the most. To see the scared people after having invaded their most private space, the kind of authority you hold in such situations – all this led me to break my own silence, to assume responsibility for what I’ve seen and done.”

Related:
Protest marking 47 years of occupation in Tel Aviv will ‘disrupt routine,’ police says
Breaking the Silence founder detained in Hebron, banned from city for 14 days

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    COMMENTS

    1. Jan

      A few years ago I heard the testimony of one of the courageous former IDF members who said “we go into the villages to deliberately make a provocation.”

      They know that the kids will come out to throw rocks at their armored vehicles and that will give the opportunity of the IDF to show their manhood and bravery by throwing tear gas and shooting a few kids with rubber bullets.

      One could say that the kids should stay indoors but when a kid has grown up under a brutal military occupation where perhaps his home has been demolished, his parents beaten and/or arrested, his father humiliated, his family’s land taken, the village’s olive trees uprooted or experienced IDF soldiers breaking into his home in the middle of the night, forcing everyone from their beds and ransacking the place, a rock is their only means of defense against Israeli occupation and brutality.

      Bravo to those wonderful Jews who show that they are real human beings. I am proud to be part of their tribe but not proud to be part of the tribe that closes their eyes when Israel brutalizes another people. The brave people of Breaking the Silence are truly a light unto the nations. I hope that they will also be a light unto Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Rab

      Speaking of those two teens in Beitunia, did the Palestinians ever make their bodies available to the IDF for a formal investigation and so they could look into the nature of the injuries and determine the ballistics?

      Reply to Comment
      • Reza Lustig

        I’m don’t know much as to exactly how criminal investigations are carried out by the IDF, but have they themselves actually requested the bodies for analysis?

        Reply to Comment
        • Rab

          Yes, the bodies were requested. And refused.

          Not to worry, the story went global.

          Reply to Comment
    3. Jan

      Why should they make the bodies available to the IDF. No one else had guns there and no one else killed those kids.

      Would Israel turn bodies over to the Palestinians? Not on your life.

      So why should the Palestinians do what Israel would never do?

      Reply to Comment
      • Rab

        In order to enable a proper investigation.

        Let’s say that you’re right and the dead were shot and killed by an Israeli. Don’t you want to know who he is so you can punish him?

        Why on earth wouldn’t you allow for a proper autopsy with Israeli input?

        Reply to Comment
        • Jan

          You really think that an Israeli soldier would be punished. You must be smoking something really strong. The worst he would get would be a slap on the wrist and maybe a few days in jail. If he got the sentence he would deserve it would be a first.

          You know that the IDF always says that it is “investigating.” Amazingly enough most of the “investigations” never go anywhere and are quickly forgotten.

          You didn’t answer my question as to whether Israel would turn over an Israeli who was killed by a Palestinian for a proper autopsy. Why not?

          Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            “You really think that an Israeli soldier would be punished.”

            Do you think Palestinians punish terrorists, Jan?

            “Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has awarded the “highest order of the Star of Honor” to arch-terrorist Nayef Hawatmeh. This is a continuation of the policy followed by Abbas and the PA to glorify terrorists responsible for murdering Israelis, as documented by Palestinian Media Watch.”

            http://www.palwatch.org/main.aspx?fi=157&doc_id=9294

            Reply to Comment
          • sh

            Do you think Israelis punish terrorists, Tzutzik?

            “Livni was convicted for playing a leading role in the Jewish underground during the 1980s and was sentenced to life imprisonment, but released after six years, in 1990, when president Chaim Herzog pardoned him.

            Since then, he has been cultivating a plot of land east of Hebron, at the outskirts of the Palestinian village of Bani Naim.

            In the past there have been a number of violent incidents in the vicinity. During a bomb explosion near Livni’s land in June 2002, three Israeli pupils were injured; in September that same year IDF troops shot and killed four Palestinian workers who approached the area, suspecting them of trying to carry out a terrorist attack.

            The reservists, members of an Armored Corps unit, told Haaretz that they had been asked to guard Livni closely, on an almost a daily basis, for several hours each time, when he went to work in his fields.”

            http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/idf-reservists-guarding-former-jewish-terrorist-is-unjustified-and-a-waste-1.250087

            Know what happened next?

            http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/former-jewish-underground-convict-receives-more-than-nis-1-3-million-from-state.premium-1.503357

            Reply to Comment
          • Jan

            The Palestinian prisons hold many Palestinians, especially members of Hamas.

            Lets remember something. Israel is occupying the West Bank where Palestine is located. Israel is the military occupier and as such as killed a lot of Palestinians. The information is there for you to see it.

            This seems to be one of the only places in the world where the occupied are supposed to protect the occupier. Can you name another place in the world where the occupier can kill and get away with it while the occupied are supposed to protect those who brutalize them and take their land.

            Perhaps you have forgotten that Israel honored two of their arch terrorists, Menacham Begin and Yitzak Shamir by electing them to be prime ministers.That is even a higher honor than giving these terrorists a medal.

            Sad to say, terrorism on both sides has been part of Israel’s history.

            Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            Sigh, same tired old narrative by Jan. Occupation … occupation …. occupation …. oppression … oppression oppression …

            Israel tried to resolve this 100 year old conflict at least twice in the last 15 years by offering comprehensive peace deals which the Palis, either ignored or rejected by responding with extreme violence. So much for the “occupation” mantra.

            And we won’t even talk about the fact that Palis were murdering Israelis even before 1967, before the occupation started. In fact they started murdering the Jews of Palestine even before the state of Israel was established. As usual, Jan is not interested in that. She is only interested in remembering Irgun and Lehi, Jewish terror groups which came as a RESPONSE to terror attacks by Arabs against Jews.

            But let’s sum up what Jan’s expectation of Israel is:

            1. You bastard Israelis should uphold the interests of the Palis at every turn because you dastardly Israelis are just dirty occupiers.

            2. In the meanwhile, Palis are allowed to murder and maim any Israeli man, woman or child, young and old because resisting occupiers is legitimate.

            3. Israeli soldiers must be punished mercilessly if they don’t live up to Jan’s exacting standards.

            4. It is ok for the Palis to openly glorify their murderous terrorists.

            You are a laugh a minute Jan.

            Reply to Comment
          • Reza Lustig

            You are making accusations that are untrue. Nowhere did Jan say that she thought it was OK for the Palestinian government to “openly glorify their murderous terrorists.” She pointed out that Israel is hypocritical for the accusations, while glorifying people like Begin and Shamir (and Sharon, who the record shows to be a cold-blooded killer). I don’t think transitioning from terror to statesmanship absolves one of guilt or responsibility for past crimes.

            “Historical” arguments for the occupation mean as much to me as excuses for human rights abuses in Cuba which use the Bay of Pigs invasion to blame dissidents (and America) for their own oppression. Ironic, really, that the while original Jewish settlers were abused by local extremists, today’s Israelis have brought the ill-will of today’s Palestinian people upon down upon themselves all on their own. It’s the height of arrogance to be angry at people you abuse for not trusting you, and not wanting to gain their freedom on YOUR terms.

            Concerning your colorful interpretation of Jan’s views, I would say that a country is morally obliged not to abuse or bully people it occupies (i.e. is responsible for), and that soldiers who commit crimes or are abusive should be punished a little more severely than simply being discharged. Other than that, you’re putting words in her mouth for your own amusement. It’s a disrespectful habit a lot of us (including me) have here, and it would be good if we could curb it.

            Also, you should stop using the term “Pali” to refer to Palestinians. It makes you sound as uncouth as the beer-swilling jagoffs in England who call people “Pakis.”

            Reply to Comment
          • IlonJ

            Oh yes Reza and Jan wasn’t hypocritical was she?

            Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            “Nowhere did Jan say that she thought it was OK for the Palestinian government to “openly glorify their murderous terrorists.”

            Actually she did.

            In response to her strident post, I brought to her attention the fact that the PA glorifies terrorists. Instead of being equally strident towards the PA, she defended them.

            What do you make of that Reza?

            Reply to Comment
    4. Reza Lustig

      Actually, she did not say it was “OK.” She pointed out that the PA has already jailed plenty of terrorists. Nayef Hawatmeh may have gotten away with the Ma’alot Massacre, but as far as I am aware, neither Yitzak Shamir nor Ariel Sharon were ever punished for their roles in the murder of Count Folke Bernadotte, or the Sabra & Shatila Massacre respectively.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ginger Eis

        As usual, this creature (who describes himself as “quarter Jewish from Hungary”; “of mixed race from Iran”, “American”, and many more bla bla bla), employs the same old false moral equivalence and irrationality that are not only intrinsic in the Islamist-being but have also kept- and will continue to keep the Muslim-world ever primitive and in darkness! I guess Winton Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt are comparable to the beast called Adolf Hitler in your distorted Islamist-mind, no? And why do you want to change the topic to discussing ‘Count Folke Bernadotte and Sabra & Shatila’ – desperate for an opening to spew some anti-Semitic rants?

        Reply to Comment
      • Tzutzik

        “Actually, she did not say it was “OK.” She pointed out that the PA has already jailed plenty of terrorists.”

        Actually, she said “members of Hamas”. I didn’t didn’t even dignify that with a response. You know why Reza? Of course you do. Because not one of those members of Hamas has been jailed for committing crimes against Israeli civilians. They were jailed for being active against the PA as a rival political group.

        As for your comments about why Israel didn’t jail Shamir and Sharon, you are really out doing yourself with that one. You know why? Because if you wanted them jailed then unless you are a total hypocrite, you should have also insisted that Arafat should have been jailed. And Habash and probably most of the other leaders of the PA, including Abbas not to mention all of the leaders Hamas.

        Did I hear you whining about that Reza? No? Why am I surprised?

        Reply to Comment
        • Reza Lustig

          1st off: Jan’s earlier comment applies here. Why should the PA be invested in avenging the attacks on Israel, which is militarily occupying its’ land.

          How exactly does saying that Shamir and Sharon should’ve been punished for their crimes mean that, ipso facto, I think Arafat or Habash were innocent? Yes, it would be nice if, at some point, the Palestinian people would hold past leaders accountable for the murders and massacres that they ordered/happened under their watch. I don’t see Israelis doing that yet, though. How exactly is the burden on the PA, and not the Israeli government, to “set the precedent?”

          Also, a little more civility would be appreciated. I’m trying to be less condescending and dismissive online, so please do so as well.

          Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            “Why should the PA be invested in avenging the attacks on Israel, which is militarily occupying its’ land.”

            Look Reza, I’ll try and be nice about it. I already answered this question of Jan’s. Read my response to her which I do admit was sarcastic.

            The bottom line is that either they want to negotiate a peace deal in which case they should stop murdering Israeli civilians. Or they can act on their hatred of us, continue to delude themselves that their violence will force us to accept ALL their demands, including their unreasonable demands and they will find that we too will respond harshly. It is as simple as that. If it is the latter, then they should feel free to stop complaining about our RESPONSE to their decision to try and hurt us.

            “How exactly does saying that Shamir and Sharon should’ve been punished for their crimes mean that, ipso facto, I think Arafat or Habash were innocent? Yes, it would be nice if, at some point, the Palestinian people would hold past leaders accountable for the murders and massacres that they ordered/happened under their watch. I don’t see Israelis doing that yet, though. How exactly is the burden on the PA, and not the Israeli government, to “set the precedent?”

            Actually, what you say has some merit. But that sort of thing tends to happen many years after wars end. At that stage, both sides can afford to take an honest look at their history and assess past mistakes.

            Right now it is pointless. It would achieve nothing for either side because all the protagonists which we mentioned on both sides are dead.

            However, decorating and rewarding terrorists who are still alive today is another story. That just encourages more terrorism. And it sends the wrong message to those with whom one wants to make peace. Here read about more cases highlighting Abbas lionising terrorists who targeted and murdered Israeli men women and children.

            http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyxsdojrXwE

            http://matzav.com/pas-abbas-confers-highest-award-on-terrorist-leader-al-wazir-calling-him-martyr-model-of-a-true-fighter

            http://www.haaretz.com/mobile/palestinians-honor-fatah-terrorist-despite-israel-s-protests-1.348939?v=64BBF7DFDDA8682E8DB4B2F8C4B98803

            Not only that, but Abbas demanded and we foolishly agreed to release such terrorists for the mere “privilige” of Abbas pretending to talk to us about peace which according to him means that we the militarily stronger party should surrender to him unconditionally. It won’t happen Reza. Trust me, that just won’t happen.

            Reply to Comment
          • Reza Lustig

            1. I was unaware that Israel was at war with the PA, and that the PA is murdering Israeli citizens. I think that their recent offer to render a future Palestinian state demilitarized, and to make every single Palestinian refugee’s “Right of Return” subject to the Israeli government’s discretion (among other things) was a more than generous offer, and indication of a willingness to play ball.

            2. I disagree strongly. Being dead shouldn’t absolve ANYONE of guilt for what they’ve done in life. Palestinians (and Lebanese) have right to feel insulted by the posthumous canonization of Ariel Sharon, just as you and yours have the right to feel insulted by the lionization of live terrorists. You can’t just say “Well, YOUR terrorists are still alive!” Maybe you can’t punish a dead person, but you can certainly take away their phony “heroic” reputations by putting them in perspective. Sharon may be dead, but you can still insist that your government present an accurate portrayal of him: an unprincipled Machiavellian, without human feeling, who happily shed the blood of innocent people (not just the guilty).

            Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            “Why should the PA be invested in avenging the attacks on Israel, which is militarily occupying its’ land.”

            Look Reza, I’ll try and be nice about it. I already answered this question of Jan’s. Read my response to her which I do admit was sarcastic.

            The bottom line is that either they want to negotiate a peace deal in which case they should stop murdering Israeli civilians. Or they can act on their hatred of us, continue to delude themselves that their violence will force us to accept ALL their demands, including their unreasonable demands and they will find that we too will respond harshly. It is as simple as that. If it is the latter, then they should feel free to stop complaining about our RESPONSE to their decision to try and hurt us.

            “How exactly does saying that Shamir and Sharon should’ve been punished for their crimes mean that, ipso facto, I think Arafat or Habash were innocent? Yes, it would be nice if, at some point, the Palestinian people would hold past leaders accountable for the murders and massacres that they ordered/happened under their watch. I don’t see Israelis doing that yet, though. How exactly is the burden on the PA, and not the Israeli government, to “set the precedent?”

            Actually, what you say has some merit. But that sort of thing tends to happen many years after wars end. At that stage, both sides can afford to take an honest look at their history and assess past mistakes.

            Right now it is pointless. It would achieve nothing for either side because all the protagonists which we mentioned on both sides are dead.

            However, decorating and rewarding terrorists who are still alive today is another story. That just encourages more terrorism. And it sends the wrong message to those with whom one wants to make peace. Here read about more cases highlighting Abbas lionising terrorists who targeted and murdered Israeli men women and children.

            http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyxsdojrXwE

            http://matzav.com/pas-abbas-confers-highest-award-on-terrorist-leader-al-wazir-calling-him-martyr-model-of-a-true-fighter

            http://www.haaretz.com/mobile/palestinians-honor-fatah-terrorist-despite-israel-s-protests-1.348939?v=64BBF7DFDDA8682E8DB4B2F8C4B98803

            Not only that, but Abbas demanded and we foolishly agreed to release such terrorists for the mere “privilege” of Abbas pretending to talk to us about peace which according to him means that we the militarily stronger party should surrender to him unconditionally. It won’t happen Reza. Trust me, that just won’t happen.

            Reply to Comment
      • directrob

        You are slightly off topic …

        Some satire to lighten your day:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3IaKVmkXuk

        Do you have anything to say about the topic of the article?

        Reply to Comment
        • Ginger Eis

          Directrob, yeah, I was OT because I could not contain my joy after reading the story re J’lem. I just wanted to shear it with everyone who has not yet read it. Anyways, thanks for the video. I enjoyed it. I also appreciate very much the civil manner in which you conduct yourself on this site.

          Reply to Comment
      • shachalnur

        Australia?

        A land occupied for 200 years by some British ex-prisoners that ethnocided ,maimed and humiliated the indigenous population in a part of the world where China rules.

        They are scared shitless.

        Like Israel,if the Australians don’t start behaving more respectfully in the land that welcomed them,this country will not exist 20 years from now.

        Australia is owned by the Banker Cabal in London,and now BRICS is kicking the Bankers back to London,the Chinese will claim ownership over the continent named Australia.

        Australia ,like 1897 Zionist controlled Israel, will be only a footnote in history.

        Reply to Comment
      • Eliza

        No, Australia has not recognised East Jerusalem as being part of Israel. The current conservative Australian government has stated that it considers it ‘unhelpful’ to refer to EJ as being occupied. Basically, it is aping the Zionist line that it is ‘disputed’. Given that polling suggests that most Australians are very sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians, it will be interesting to see the blowback on the Australian Government.

        And yes, as a post-colonial state with a dark history towards its indigenous people, we Aussies see through the Israeli propaganda with relative ease. Even so, the I/P conflict is a relatively low level issue within Australia. Silly actions like changing the semantics re occupation will hopefully raise the profile of the I/P conflict – and this can only bring more Aussies to support the occupied – the Palestinians.

        Reply to Comment
        • Samuel

          I came back from a long visit to Australia a short while ago.

          Most Aussies whom I met were very friendly and sympathetic to Israel.

          In addition, everything that I read suggests that overall, the average Aussie does not really take much interest in the Middle East. Many though are not particularly impressed by the behaviour of some of the Arab immigrants who ended up down under. In particular, some of the Arab Islamic leaders have said things about Aussie women being just “meat on display” did not foster sympathy towards Arabs amongst Aussies.

          The only ones who seem to hate Israel in Australia, like elsewhere, are the usual suspects: the extreme lefties and of course the extreme right wing neo Nazi types.

          Reply to Comment
          • IlonJ

            “The only ones who seem to hate Israel in Australia, like elsewhere, are the usual suspects: the extreme lefties and of course the extreme right wing neo Nazi types.”

            They are good company to each other.

            Reply to Comment
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