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No permit, no entry

I thought of mandatory conscription as somewhat of an inconvenience — I never thought the army would be ‘fun.’ I never expected to serve at a checkpoint. I never expected to hate myself for it.

By Lauren S. Marcus

Israeli soldiers stand near the entrance to the divided village of Ghajar on the Lebanese-Israeli border, January 19, 2015. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers stand near the entrance to the divided village of Ghajar on the Lebanese-Israeli border, January 19, 2015. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

It was a balmy Saturday night in Tel Aviv. I stood on the smoking patio of a club which overlooks the sea, and there was a soft breeze which carried on it the scents of the Mediterranean, the various shwarma and falafel restaurants which dominate that part of the city, and the perfumes and colognes of the patrons around me. As I sipped my beer, a girl approached me. She was young, American. She had heard me translating something from Hebrew to English for my friend and she was impressed. “You know Hebrew?” she asked me.

“Yes,” I said.

“Did you make Aliyah?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said. I knew what was coming next.

“Were you in the army?”

“Yes.”

“Did you have fun?” she asked.

I paused.

“No,” I told her. “It was the worst time of my life.”

“But why?” she continued, wrinkling her nose in confusion.

I was stunned.

In the United States, asking such a question so casually is unheard of; I can’t imagine a stranger pestering a veteran as to why their army service wasn’t “fun.” And you certainly wouldn’t expect such a question in a crowded nightclub while surrounded by partygoers downing shots of vodka. In Israeli society, military service can mean many different things, and is so normalized that one could reasonably expect a “yes” to this question. Furthermore, if one did suffer during their army service, there is intense pressure not to say so. A shrug and quick change of subject would be appropriate. Admitting that I didn’t enjoy my army service is a shocking act.

When I was drafted to the IDF, I was incredibly naïve. Having immigrated to the country a mere seven months before, my expectations were based on the experiences friends shared with me. I had plenty of friends who had fun in the army. They mostly had jobs arranging field trips for soldiers from their bases and organizing special sports and relaxation days, and taking tourists from Zionist youth groups to volunteer in army bases for three-week sessions. I viewed mandatory conscription as something that would be inconvenient, but pictured myself posting for a few too many Facebook selfies in uniform and having something impressive-sounding to list on my resume. I didn’t expect to serve at a checkpoint. I didn’t expect to hate myself for it.

After three months of basic training, I was assigned to sit in a small beige room for 12 hour shifts, in an unimportant IDF base on the outskirts of the northern border town of Kiryat Shmona. The title they gave me was “intelligence operations officer,” an extravagant term for a job which consisted almost entirely of answering the phone. The phone calls originated from an Arab village called Ghajar, which fell under my base’s jurisdiction. Although the townspeople were Israeli citizens, possessing blue identification cards, Israeli driver’s licenses and passports, and paid property taxes to the state of Israel, they were viewed as suspect, possible enemy combatants. The entire town was a security risk. I was confused.

The title they gave me was 'intelligence operations officer,' an extravagant term for a job which consisted almost entirely of answering the phone.

‘The title they gave me was ‘intelligence operations officer,’ an extravagant term for a job which consisted almost entirely of answering the phone.’ (An Instagram photo of the office where the author served.)

The situation was clarified to me by a sweet 19 year old in my unit. “The town,” he explained, “is cut in half, like this.” With two hands, he sliced the air, from above his head to his toes. “Half belongs to us. Half belongs to Lebanon. It’s a closed military zone. So people can’t just come and go,” he said, sweeping his hands back and forth, “It’s not safe. They need to be approved by us before they enter. And if anyone from outside Ghajar wants to come inside,” he wagged his finger,“they need a permit, in advance. So they need to call here.” And the phone rang, day and night.

Within a week, I understood that the majority of the phone calls were from the same 30 people. I began to recognize some their voices, remembering their names before they identified themselves. There was one man who, upon hearing my heavy American accent in Hebrew, proudly informed me that he was an English teacher. When I asked for his surname, he responded in my native language, “K-H-A-T-E-E-B,” his pronunciation of each letter careful and practiced. I also became acquainted with a great-grandmother, born in the town but who had moved to Nazareth. She visited her family every Thursday, and stayed for three days each time. Her calls were at exactly 11 in the morning on Wednesdays.

The callers were normal people, inhabitants of a town that had existed for at least 300 years prior to the establishment of the state. To say that the checkpoint, fence, and permits were disruptive to their lives would be an understatement. Nothing was ever certain for them. Permits were mysteriously denied to someone for “classified reasons”; the next day, permits could be granted to the same individual. People were wary about venturing out of the town; a quick trip to Kiryat Shmona could potentially result in an hours-long ordeal upon return. Moving to Haifa to study in university could lead to a crippling change of status; one could be reclassified against his will as a “non-resident” and would need to request a permit, 24 hours in advance, in order to visit his family home. Conditions inside the town were poor; even candy for mini-markets had to gain army approval before it was brought inside. Many companies had ceased making deliveries to the town. I was told of restaurants with spectacular views of the Hasbani River, which had once hosted droves of Jewish tourists on weekends — now permanently empty.

The next few weeks passed slowly. It started to become difficult for me to sleep at night. The people of Ghajar had committed no crime, save for being residents of their town. My presence in the base and compliance in the role I was given were tantamount to an endorsement of this system. By answering the phone and compiling the lists, I was taking an active role in the siege of these people’s lives. I lay on my back in my barracks, staring into the darkness, questioning myself.

“It doesn’t actually matter that you’re doing this,” one of my friends told me, trying to assuage my guilt. “If it wasn’t you sitting in that chair answering the phone, it would be someone else. It would have happened with or without you, and it’s going to continue once you’re out of the army.” Rather than finding comfort in her words, I grew more dejected.

I wasn’t the only one assigned to answer the phone calls from Ghajar. There was a boy in my unit who covered the other 12 hours of the day, and a girl who filled in when both of us went home for weekend furloughs. On one Thursday, before leaving for my break, I stopped into the room for a cigarette and chat with my colleague. We smoked and drank coffee and laughed. The phone rang and he put the call on speaker. It was an older woman, distraught. She had been issued a permit, she said, but was at the gate of Ghajar and denied entry. The permit wasn’t being found by the soldiers stationed there. Please, she begged, tears obvious in her voice. I know I got the permit. Whatever error had been made, human or otherwise, was impossible for us to determine. “No permit, no entry,” said my colleague. Please, she cried. “I already told you,” my colleague snapped, “No permit, no entry. Are you deaf?” He slammed down the phone. For a moment, we were quiet.

He turned to me and rolled his eyes. “What don’t they understand?” he asked me. “They’re always whining.” He exaggeratedly imitated her cries, rubbing his fists against his eyes. I felt sick.

Although hardly an atrocity, these and other little indignities weighed heavily on me. Incidents like this weren’t anomalies; it was common knowledge that we could speak to the residents of Ghajar in whatever way we saw fit. “Cakha zeh” (That’s the way it is), or “Ein ma la’asot” (There’s nothing to do be done about it), were frequent refrains when I raised my concerns to my fellow soldiers about the injustice of the situation. Nobody seemed particularly worried about the grim lives of some Arabs in Ghajar. The fence and checkpoints and permits loomed over the town, permanent institutions. It was clear that nothing would be changing in the near future.

“But why?” The girl in the club was waiting for my answer. Why hadn’t I had fun in the army?

My friend approached us and had overheard the end of our conversation. She squeezed my hand supportively, as if to tell me that it was alright, but also signaling to me not to make a fuss. No reason to ruin the night.

“It’s a long story,” I finally told the young American girl.

She nodded politely and turned back around. She began chatting with other people and within a few seconds laughed, full of joy. I stood quietly and watched the sea.

Lauren S. Marcus is an American immigrant to Israel originally from Los Angeles, CA. She is a student of government at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.

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    1. Philos

      Thank you Lauren for this candid and refreshing breath of fresh air. I would reply to this question with an indifferent shrug of the shoulders. Sometimes I would say, “It was shit.” Sometimes the other person would say quietly too, “Yeah, it was fucking horrible.” I think most people hated their army service. The ones who aren’t psychos or didn’t become psychopathic in the army, anyway. The ones who “enjoyed” it are the same elite Ashkenazim that “enjoyed” when they all used to go to the paratroopers but now they all go 8200 and the Kirya. I was in the West Bank and it was awful. Just awful. The worst thing I ever did to another group of human beings was be in the army in the West Bank.

      As an Israeli, I have to say, that I never understood the Americans or British that came to the army. I thought they were stupid, insane or utterly credulous (no offense). I still don’t understand the psychology. They claim to be patriots and think they’re brave. I’d think, “If you’re so brave why didn’t you go to Iraq or Afghanistan with your fellow citizens?” I always felt that they came to the IDF because, deep down, they knew it was much safer to be a soldier here, even in the West Bank, than in Iraq or Afghanistan. I used to think they were cowards and bullies because they didn’t have the courage or conviction to go to places where the locals know how to kick the occupiers in the teeth. I am not so convinced of this anymore. I mostly think, nowadays, that they were duped somehow or lost. If you could write another great article shedding light on your reasons for joining the IDF this would be an even greater “breaking the silence” than this brave article now.

      Reply to Comment
    2. SIDA

      I’M NOT SURE WHAT YOUR ISSUE IS. EVERY ARMY ON PLANET EARTH PUTS PEOPLES’ FEELINGS AND CONVINIENCE SECOND AND DEFENDING THE NATION FIRST AND RIGHTFULLY SO…

      LET’S THINK ABOUT WHO WOULD WANT TO ILLEGALLY CROSS THE BOARDER BETWEEN LEBANON AND ISRAEL , WHY THEY WOULD WANT TO DO SO, AND WHAT THEY WOULD BRING WITH THEM IF THEY DID. THEN LET’S THINK ABOUT SOMEONE LOSING THEIR WORK HOURS OR BEING INCONVENIENCED. WHICH IS WORTH MORE? PARTICULARLY TO AN ARMY WHICH IS GIVEN THE MONUMENTAL TASK OF PREVENTING TERROR ATTACKS FROM ONE OF THE MOST DANGEROUS GEURILLA GROUPS ON THE PLANET. I THINK THE FEELINGS OF THOSE THIRTY PEOPLE SHOULD BE PUT ON THE SIDE WHEN IT COMES TO ANY NATION’S SECURITY. AND IF YOU DIDN’T WANT TO DO THE SERVICE YOU COULD HAVE ACCEPTED THE CONSEQUENCES,FLOWN BACK HOME, SAT IN JAIL OR DONE WHATEVER ELSE YOU WANTED. THE FACT IS, YOU CHOSE TO CONTINUE DOING WHAT YOU DID. YOU CAN’T HAVE BOTH WORLDS.

      SORRY BUT THIS CARRIES NO WATER…

      Reply to Comment
      • rose

        Everything can be justified. EVERYTHING.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Gustav

      I don’t see any need for confusion. Times may be a bit quieter now but it wasn’t always so. See a list of some of the terrorist attacks against Israel in the link below. In particular, look at the fifth item from the top…

      http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/terrorism/terrisraelworst.html

      Are things a bit better now? Of course. Why do you think it is so? Could it be because of the security measures? I for one think so…

      Reply to Comment
    4. Pedro X

      “The people of Ghajar had committed no crime, save for being residents of their town.”

      No, they just live in a hostile enemy territory from which Hezbollah has violently attacked Israel on a number of occasions and continues to attack Israel. So, Israel as most countries are very particular who they admit into their country.

      In 2000 Israel withdrew from half of Ghajar in accordance with the UN division of the town into Israeli territory and Lebanese territory. The ironic thing is that the people of Ghajar are Alawites, who do not see themselves as Lebanese.

      In November 2005, Hezbollah launched an assault on the Israeli part of the village, firing mortars and Katyusha rockets on IDF positions and civilian houses. Nine months later, an all-out war erupted, triggered by a cross-border kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers not far from Ghajar. In the 2006 Israeli-Lebanon war, Hezbollah occupied the Lebanese part of Ghajar. Hezbollah attacked Israel from the Lebanese controlled area firing over 300 anti-tank missiles. Israel was able to defeat and move Hezbollah out of the Lebanese village. However, Israel as requested handed the Lebanese portion of the village back to Lebanon after the end of the 2006 war.

      Hezbollah is again back in the village and has fired on Israeli positions. Recently in April Hezbollah fired a brace of anti-tank missiles at Israeli soldiers on the Israeli side and killed two of them. One of the missiles slammed into a house in Israeli Ghajar and death was only averted because a mother and her two children had left the house only 10 minutes before it was destroyed by Hezbollah.

      The homes in Israeli Ghajar are pocked marked from bullet holes fired at them over the course of many attacks.

      Israel has ever right to defend its border from attacks and this means it also has the right to screen who comes into Israel and who leaves to go to Lebanon. No permit, no entry.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ben

      The guy who slammed down the phone sounds just like BigCat. If s/he ever makes it past basic training s/he’ll be just like that. S/he’ll revel in it.

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        What a stupid comment. Typical of Benny…

        Yes, bearucracy can be banal and military bearucracy is no different. But the fact is that Israel needs to have security measures in place. See my first post on this thread to see why…

        When the Palestinian Arabs and Lebanon will be willing to sign a peace deal with us AND keep to it, these security measures will no longer be necessary. But in the meanwhile…

        Hey, people require visas and are scanned and sometimes even frisked at airports when they enter other countries. Even countries which are not on a war footing. But we should be criticized for scrutinizing those whose people are on a war footing with us? Ok, then, criticize. But we will ignore you…

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Make no mistake. This person will revel in it.
          Such a classic statement of what you don’t get or couldn’t give a damn about the occupation and the way it treats people, and the way it encourages soldiers to treat people, and your ever ready all-purpose excuse: “security.” Classic. You illustrate it very nicely. These things could be done without this astounding arbitrary cruelty. There is no logic to the arbitrariness Lauren Marcus describes except “Our Harsh Logic” (by Breaking the Silence). Have you read the book Gustav?

          Our Harsh Logic

          Publishers Weekly

          Random brutality, Kafkaesque bureaucracy, hatred, and dehumanization: that’s the face of Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza as described by disaffected soldiers in this troubling oral history. These interviews with 106 anonymous IDF veterans who served in the occupied territories, gathered by the Israeli human rights group Breaking the Silence, tell of indiscriminate mass arrests and beatings; of random searches, trashings, and seizures of Palestinian homes; of arbitrary military regulations, permits, and checkpoints that make everyday life for Palestinians a gauntlet of harassment and humiliation. Interviewees describe farmers weeping as their orchards are bulldozed to accommodate separation barriers and IDF troops taking potshots at passersby, blowing a woman to bits to gain entry into her home, and murdering unarmed Palestinian policemen in cold blood. It’s a tapestry of chaos, but the editors see in it the “harsh logic” of an Israeli policy

          Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            What I don’t get, Benny dear?

            No, let’s see what YOU don’t get…

            We have been facing a brutal, implaccable enemy for 100 years. We live in a very rough neighborhood where the weak get slaughtered. Yes, literally slaughtered…

            So we need to have a regime in place to minimize their chance to slaughter us…

            Yes, in that regime, the innocents suffer too and yes some individuals amongst us can be stupid…

            But that’s the nature of the beast. War stinks and we are not the ones who want war, your buddies the Palestinian Arabs do…

            Do you want to stop the nonsense Benny? Then use your considerable influence on your Palestinian Arab buddies to sign a peace deal with us and make sure they keep to it…

            The suffering will then hopefully stop. We won’t have to mourn our dead and injured from their terrorist acts. And they won’t have to be inconvenienced by our military beaurocracy…

            OK, Benny dear?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            [Publisher’s description]

            Our Harsh Logic

            Israeli soldiers speak out for the first time about the truth of the Palestinian occupation, in “one of the most important books on Israel/Palestine in this generation” ( The New York Review of Books ) The very name of the Israel Defense Forces–which many Israelis speak of as “the most moral army in the world”–suggests that its primary mission is the defense of the country’s territory. Indeed, both internationally and within Israel, support for the occupation of Palestinian territory rests on the belief that the army’s actions and presence in the West Bank and Gaza are essentially defensive and responsive, aimed at protecting the country from terror.

            But Israeli soldiers themselves tell a profoundly different story. In this landmark work, which includes hundreds of soldiers’ testimonies collected over a decade, what emerges is a broad policy that is anything but defensive. In their own words, the soldiers reveal in human and vivid detail how the key planks of the army’s ostensibly protective program—”prevention of terror,” “separation of populations,” “preservation of the fabric of life,” and “law enforcement”—have in fact served to accelerate acquisition of Palestinian land, cripple all normal political and social life, and ultimately thwart the possibility of independence.

            The many soldiers who have spoken out have taken aim at a silence of complicity, both within Israel and in the wider world, that perpetuates the justification for occupation. In the process, they have created a gripping and immediate record of oppression. Powerful and incontrovertible, Our Harsh Logic is a supremely significant contribution to one of the world’s most vexed conflicts.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Poor old Benny, he is a robotic automaton…

            He is fixated only on one side of the equation, Israel. Context does not matter to him. Reality does not matter to him. What Palestinian Arabs do, don’t matter to him.

            His only agenda is to throw mud at Israel. That is his only job in life. Hey Benny, I hope your Arab masters pay you well? Actually, on second thought, I don’t…

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            … and always with the sleight of hand.

            Here he quotes from a published book. Nothing about the publisher. Nothing about the author/s. Supposedly the book has testimonies from “hundreds of Israeli soldiers”. How do we know all that? Because Benny tells us that it is so. And that the book is from a reliable source rather than just one of the many books of propaganda and disinformation. Hey, it’s war. It happens in all wars. And yes, the Arabs and their friends are good at propaganda.

            And Benny still ignores the list in my first post. He pretends that terrorism does not and did not exist. He pretends that it’s all just about the occupation and that Arabs have never done anything wrong. That the Palestinian Arabs are just innocent victims who never lifted a finger to harm us.

            Pssssst, Benny dear….

            If you want to influence us Israelis, you will need to get a bit more professional and look at the real situation and at history. You will need to look at the behavior of the Arabs too. You may then have a chance of getting through to somene like me. Otherwise, NO CHANCE! You forget that I know the history of my country and I face what is happening here on a daily basis. That is why I am so much against you and people like you who try to tell us how eeeevvvvil we all are….

            Oh, and you won’t get through to most average, thinking non Israelis either. Because intelligent human beings know that everything has a context. And many have a broad grasp of the history of the Middle East too. People are not as ignorant as you think, Benny dear.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Oh. I’m SO, SO sorry. My mistake of course. I forgot to tell you for the second time that it’s by Breaking the Silence. And the publisher is Macmillan. 2012. Yehuda Shaul was born and raised in Jerusalem in an ultra-Orthodox family. After graduating from a yeshiva high school in a Jewish settlement on the West Bank, Yehuda served in the IDF achieving the rank of commander and platoon sergeant and was posted in the Palestinian towns of Bethlehem, Hebron and Ramallah on the West Bank. In 2004, Yehuda founded Breaking the Silence with a group of fellow veterans; he serves as the organization’s Co-Director and Foreign Relations Officer.

            I forgot to take into account that you have your head so far up your ass that you could actually say something as utterly stupid as:

            “Here he quotes from a published book. Nothing about the publisher. Nothing about the author/s. Supposedly the book has testimonies from “hundreds of Israeli soldiers”. How do we know all that? Because Benny tells us that it is so. And that the book is from a reliable source.”

            You can buy the book here and look inside it. This site is called “Amazon.” And you can find it also at your “public library.”

            http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B0080K3FE0?ie=UTF8&redirectFromSS=1&pc_redir=T1&noEncodingTag=1&fp=1

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Thank you Benny, I knew you meant “Breaking the Silence” but I needed you to bring it out to the open so that I can put your dark allegations into perspective. So I’ll begin with this…

            “In July 2009, journalist Amos Harel published in Haaretz: “Breaking the Silence … has a clear political agenda, and can no longer be classed as a ‘human rights organization.’ Any organization whose website includes the claim by members to expose the ‘corruption which permeates the military system’ is not a neutral observer. The organization has a clear agenda: to expose the consequences of IDF troops serving in the West Bank and Gaza. This seems more of interest to its members than seeking justice for specific injustices.”[52] It was also criticized as promoting Anti-Israeli lawfare.”

            Get it, Benny? They have a political agenda. They cobble together individual cases of abuse and injustice which DO exist in any war situation and in any army which faces asymmetrical warfare and where you have soldiers who reciprocate the hatred which they and their loved ones actually experince from a people whom they know to be their enemies. Many soldiers know people personally people who were murdered or maimed by Arab terrorists. Get it Benny? So many individual soldiers are not always nice.

            That is not the same as the allegation which this guy with an agenda makes.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Call it what you will, a political organization or a human rights organization. Thats’s neither here nor there. It’s many IDF soldiers speaking out. You can spin the anonymity as compromising credibility or you can see it as protecting them from certain persecution and releasing them to tell what they know candidly. If you say it’s the former and not the latter you’re accusing an awful lot of IDF soldiers of being liars and once you actually listen to the videotaped testimonies you realize it has face validity and intense authenticity and credibility. More importantly, and this is key, it’s about a whole system. It’s absolutely not about individual cases cobbled together or individual soldiers who are “not nice.” Yehuda Shaul says over and over that they’ve got hundreds of testimonies and when you listen to hundreds (read the book) contributed from all branches and deployments as he has it becomes clear it’s systemic. And purposeful: tactical and strategic. That’s why the English language editor came up with the title of ‘Our Harsh Logic.’ It’s from the top. And it goes all the way down. Gustav, I don’t need to convince you. They’re convincing to a lot of people. Whether you and Pedro X and Jello say you’re convinced is not interesting. Save it for the AIPAC Aunts Auxiliary Tea Party Society Meeting. It is interesting that when Caroline Glick fulminates against Breaking the Silence she does it only very briefly as if she doesn’t really want to mention them at all and she automatically refers to them as “a radical left wing EU-funded Israeli organization” (Yehuda Shaul is orthodox religious raised in the West Bank and a platoon leader, and his sister lives in a settlement, but blame it on the EU!)–and hardly mentions they’re soldiers who’ve seen much more of war than she has and are anything but abnormal people or misfits. This is switching subjects but you really gotta love how this battle ax who’s never been in battle shrewishly accuses Meir Dagan of being a traitor and a refuser of orders. That she could lecture this guy like this is testament to how much fake political posturing goes on with this Iran issue. All that stood between our courageous and decisive Bibi and bombing Iran was Meir Dagan and Ashkenazi? What fakery.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Call it what you will, a political organization or a human rights organization. Thats’s neither here nor there. It’s many IDF soldiers speaking out. You can spin the anonymity as compromising credibility or you can see it as protecting them from certain persecution and releasing them to tell what they know candidly. If you say it’s the former and not the latter you’re accusing an awful lot of IDF soldiers of being liars and once you actually listen to the videotaped testimonies you realize it has face validity and intense authenticity and credibility. More importantly, and this is key, it’s about a whole system. It’s absolutely not about individual cases cobbled together or individual soldiers who are “not nice.” Yehuda Shaul says over and over that they’ve got hundreds of testimonies and when you listen to hundreds (read the book) contributed from all branches and deployments as he has it becomes clear it’s systemic. And purposeful: tactical and strategic. That’s why the English language editor came up with the title of ‘Our Harsh Logic.’ It’s from the top. And it goes all the way down. Gustav, I don’t need to convince you. They’re convincing to a lot of people. Whether you and Pedro X and Jello say you’re convinced is not interesting. Save it for the AIPAC Aunts Auxiliary Tea Party Society Meeting. It is interesting that when Caroline Glick fulminates against Breaking the Silence she does it only very briefly as if she doesn’t really want to mention them at all and she automatically refers to them as “a radical left wing EU-funded Israeli organization” (Yehuda Shaul is orthodox religious raised in the West Bank and a platoon leader, and his sister lives in a settlement, but blame it on the EU!)–and hardly mentions they’re soldiers who’ve seen much more of war than she has and are anything but abnormal people or misfits.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            TO ALL: I recommend if you have not yet that you listen to Yehuda Shaul of Breaking the Silence speak:

            https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=JxHE4KrLvj0

            It’s worth the whole hour and 38 minutes. If you want the quick take home message go to minute 21:00. Watch 21:00-25:00. Israel tells itself and others it’s playing defense but it’s really playing offense. It always says it’s on the way out but it’s really always on the way in. Before 21:00 he describes BtS’s purpose: to show Israelis: “This is what we in the military really do in your name.” From 25:00 on he describes what he means by “offense.” He describes how the idea of “prevention,” for example, expands to include every offensive (in both meanings of the term) action you can think of. And the idea of “separation” and how it becomes ruthlessly limitless. And on and on. If you start watching him speak you will want to listen to the end. Watch this video! It will open your eyes. It will open your eyes to the hollowness of every argument you hear about why the occupation can’t end.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            After watching the video, these are my comments about it.

            1. Yehuda says that back home, people have no clue, BS! The IDF is a citizen’s army. He is not the only one who served in the WB.

            2. “What the occupation is?” … “How does it feel?” … “How does it smell?”

            Duh!!! What a question. Is the pope Catholic? It stinks! But it is the wrong question to ask. The question to ask is this… why is there occupation? How does one end the occupation? What would happen if we end it the wrong way?

            That’s where people like Yehuda go wrong to start with…

            3. “Anything about how the occupation is going to end is not our job…”

            … give me a break! We don’t care how YOU are going to fix it, just fix it already. That’s what Yehuda is trying to say. That reminds me of a 3 year old throwing a tantrum because he does not get what he wants NOW.

            There are some things that are not easily fixable and certainly not NOW when it suits Israel’s enemies to blackmail Israel into concessions which we cannot afford to give!

            4. By his own admission, Yehuda admits that he lacks a perspective about the TOTAL picture. He only has the perspective of the soldier on the ground.

            Not having the BIG picture but trying to navigate a big ship through stormy waters is a recipee for disaster!

            5. He says … “I don’t claim to know what is behind the intention of the Generals and why they decide what they decide…”

            Well then, he has only part of the picture doesn’t he? I ask: what sensible person makes major decisions about their lives based only on partial information? But Benny wants us to just listen to this guy and make momentous decisions?

            No thanks, Benny. YOU do that with YOUR life!!! Leave us out of it…

            6. Yehuda claims that we are entrenching ourselves to maintain the occupation for the long haul.

            Is that a criticism? Does he know something we don’t? Is peace around the corner? Is peace really possible? Of course he does not know! Yet he is critical…

            The Palestinian Arabs have an entrenched position about their so called right of return demand. That’s the settling of up to 4 million Arabs in Israel proper. So long as they maintain such demands, peace is not possible.

            What is it they say? Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. That is why Israel needs to act as if the occupation is going to continue.

            7. He claims that there is no strategy to win hearts and minds.

            Yeah, what he doesn’t say is that it has been tried for a while after the 1967 victory. It just does not work. The Arab elites are a ruthless lot. They are quick to label those who go too far and collaborate with Israel as traitors. And the penalties which they mete out to them are nothing short of barbaric. Public executions and their bodies are left out to be exhibited as a deterrent to others or worse, gets dragged behind motor-cycles.

            One cannot win hearts and minds in such circumstances because one always tends to meet them under hostile circumstances. All they try to do is to show their peers how loyal to the cause they are and all we can do is to keep them at bay. And keep them off balance.

            8. Then he moves on and criticizes the tactics of the Generals. Get it? He admits that he hasn’t got the big picture. But he criticizes the tactics of the generals. Shock, horror, he says. No revenge attacks. It is war. We face an intransigent implaccable enemy which itself chooses not to play by the rules. But Yehuda knows best. He should be the general maybe? Heaven forbid!

            9. He admits that when he served in the second Intifada, the lives of soldiers were in danger and were lost. He also admits that in the last few years the situation is more stable. In other words, the General’s tactics have worked to stabilize the situation from the soldier’s point of view.

            But our Yehuda is critical about the tactics. He also admits that he has no solutions. So what are we to conclude? He wants to stop the tactics which worked from our point of view and go back to the situation which existed in the second intifada in which thousands of Israelis were murdered or maimed.

            What a genius he is. NOT!!!

            10. They [the Palestinians] know that the arrested man is innocent? Really? How? Is Yehuda trying to tell us that Palestinian society is an open society in which all anti Israel conspiracies are discussed in public?

            11. He is critical about the chain of command. So even though he claims that he hasn’t got the big picture or why the generals do what they do, he wants to be the general. Yes, we all had those moments. Hey even as civilians we have those moments but it cannot be. It just cannot be. We need to listen to those who DO have the big picture and particularly if things work. Unless of course we want to see back the days of the second intifada when the rule of the day was two suicide bombings per week and thousands of us were murdered or maimed by Palestinian Arab suicide bombers.

            12. As for his agenda? He claimed at the beginning of the video that he has none. That he just tells things from a soldier’s point of view. But by the end, it is clear that he has at least one agenda. He is completely against the “settlements”. OK that IS his perogative but he is not necessarily right about that. There is a lot more the the “settlements” than the simplistic leftist take. It is a huge debate in itself and Israel’s security needs are not the least of it.

            13. He says, “I am not here to sell books”. Really? He could have fooled me. He also said at the beginning of the video that towards the end of his service he was trying to figure out what he would do as a civilian. Well, he figured it out. He is now selling books and he set himself up as a darling of the left. One has to say that his future seems secure.

            14. In the question time, he admits that the average Israeli soldier kills zero numbers of Palestinians. Contrast that to conflicts in neighboring Arab countries where people are getting slaughtered by Arab fighters on a day to day basis. But the system implemented by the Israeli generals is the bad system? It is easy to be a critic. But one has to wonder what kind of system would Yehuda implement and what would be the outcome…

            15. “The greatest delegitimiser of Israel is my prime minister…”

            Now there is a political agenda in there if we ever heard one! Agree or disagree with the man but you cannot claim that he is not driven by a political agenda.

            The question is: is his agenda right or wrong? And how can we answer that when in true leftist fashion, he only tells us what he THINKS is wrong, but he has no solutions?

            End the occupation he says. But he does not tell us how. Stop the tactics employed by the generals but he does not tell us the tactics with which to replace it.

            Break the system without knowing how to fix things. Great vision. NOT!!!

            16. He said to one of the questioners that only Rabin acted to end the occupation. Is he serious? He has not heard of Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert? That answer betrays him as a man with a political agenda. And my problem with his political agenda is that he is not really telling me how his agenda can be implemented in such a way that Israel will not end up being broken. I am sorry, but if it is a choice between our enemies having to be treated harshly or our death or us being broken, then I choose to live. He needs to convince me that it isn’t really the choice which we Israelis face. But he is not convincing.

            17. About “victimhood”, he says: “I am the victimiser, not the victim”. That may be true. But what he does not say is that if he would not be the victimiser, then undoubtedly, he or his loved ones would end up being the victims because as I keep on telling Americans like Benny who constantly try to preach to us, this conflict has a history. And that history tells us that those “poor victimized Palestinians” have been trying to make us the victims at every turn. Yes, at every turn and it started nearly 100 years ago. This Yehuda seems to want to know nothing about that. All he seems to do is lament the methods which seem to minimize the chance of us being victims. Hey, it wasn’t even all that long ago. I still remember the suicide bombing campaign between 2000 and 2006.

            18. It seems odd that even though he claims that he wants to educate us Israelis about what is going on (needlessly, I might add), he wrote a book in English and he and his comrades (as he called them) are doing a lecture tour in America. He claims to be a good Israeli but he is telling Americans how bad he thinks we are while selling his book? There seems to be a touch of mercenary and self promotion in it …

            One also has to conclude that his presence is a testament of the strength if Israeli democracy. He is out there promoting his agenda even though the majority of Israelis don’t like him for his simplistic populist views (amongst the international left). But he IS allowed to voice his views. I for one I am glad about that but I don’t like the man. He reminds me of a peacock strutting itself and trying to impress.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            You’re confused about the ends here, and about Shaul’s role, but even if you were right, which you’re not, about the ends, what you’re engaging in here is in insisting that the ends justify the means. That’s wrong and its a confusion with which your whole response is shot through and through. The “big picture” excuse is simply a bogus extension of the ends justifies the means apology. You’ve not read the book and you’ve not listened to the testimonies in any significant number if you’ve even listened to one. What Shaul is saying is you don’t have to be a general. The testimonies bear out the big picture. It’s systemic, it’s a strategy. A harsh strategy of oppression of a whole population meant to break it, to stifle any resistance to the settlers, to strangle it, while letting your settlers take more and more land from them. (Now you can call that resistance, categorically, “terrorism”–but note that you’re the one occupying them and that you automatically define any resistance whatsoever as “terrorism.” Which is a propaganda technique. Not bombings of pizza parlors in Tel Aviv, let’s be clear, but any act anywhere that is not complete submission. Even your government’s opposition leader is calling EU labeling of West Bank-made products “a new form of terrorism.”) Listen to the soldiers. They were there. They know the score. Gustav, again, that you are unconvinced is just not that interesting. That a whole lot of smart IDF soldiers are convinced is a lot more interesting.

            “entrenching ourselves to maintain the occupation for the long haul. Is that a criticism?” You bet it is. The entrenchment occurs with openly stated aims to grab as much of the West Bank as possible and all of it if you can. While with each further step of entrenchment making it harder to undo that entrenchment. On purpose. While telling the Americans another thing. Actions at this point speak vastly louder than words–Israeli apologists’ words have become meaningless.

            “There is a lot more the the “settlements” than the simplistic leftist take. It is a huge debate in itself”

            Call it “a debate” and call it as Israeli apologists curiously do “the Israeli consensus” — what you internally “debate” and what “consensus” you have evolved among factions of right wing politicians about your illegal enterprise is not the point. No one believes it is about your legitimate security needs. Worldwide it is seen as an excuse. You call that take “simplistic” and “leftist” only because you’ve poured every effort over 48 years into making it as complicated as you can, as a deliberate strategy. The “complexity,” the lack of “simplicity,” is a calculated, long term, premeditated, cynical strategy. “Oh look how complicated it is.” You’ve done nothing for 48 years but nurture facts on the ground deliberately and precisely designed to make it “complicated.” Don’t cry crocodile tears about how un-simple it is. I also notice that you sorta kinda snuck in a confession that, surprise!, the occupation is not, as you’ve always implied, about security, but is about your “huge debate” about the land you want you’re squatting on.

            It says it all that you cavalierly dismiss the innocence of the guy that, for sheer practice!!, after deliberately verifying his innocence!!, they dragged out of his house in the middle of the night while terrorizing his family. To practice on them!! It says it all. And in the same breath you want to say Breaking the Silence is about politics and not human rights. Here’s another dead giveaway: that you call this incredibly down to earth man, a soldier of enormous integrity, a strutting peacock. Sorry. We watched the same video.

            The idea that the average Israeli is somehow deeply informed in some privileged authentic way on all this is an inversion of the truth. The average Israeli is (1) brainwashed and (2) simply does not want to know and doesn’t care. “They’re there and we’re here.” (Except we’re there too.) They don’t think about the occupation at all. You might pass this by ignorant average Americans but anyone who has even just read Haaretz and +972 with any regularity knows this is pure poppycock. In fact, when I read almost anything you write, Gustav, I recognize it as the kind of Hasbara nonsense that will dupe uninformed Americans but that anyone who has actually read just Haaretz with regularity will recognize as deceptive nonsense. You right wing Israelis depend on making freiers of ignorant Americans and Europeans and that’s why you hate the fact that Haaretz and +972 are published in English. Most Israelis don’t “like” Yehuda Shaul? Of course they don’t like him! He’s telling them the inconvenient truth that they’d rather ignore.

            Your responses are informative. Honestly the end conclusion is that Israelis cannot solve their own problem. Outside pressure will have to. You’re whole country was briefly in a tizzy over FIFA and Orange. These are just the faint rumblings. Ehud Barak spoke of a tsunami. Everyone dismissed him. He may have been just ahead of his time. Your own countryman Gideon Levy:

            “Orange or SodaStream, academic boycott or artistic boycott, these are light punishments. The penalties will grow worse the longer Israel avoids drawing the necessary conclusions. As opposed to attempts by Israel and the Jewish establishment to divert the discussion, at its heart is not anti-Semitism. At its heart is the occupation. That is the source of the delegitimization. The nation can fight against the position of the whole world. It can stand up for its rights (which are not its rights) and think that it is fighting for its survival. But do the Israelis know what they are defending now? What they are not willing to surrender? Is all this worth it to them? That discussion has not even begun here.”

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Benny still leaves history out of his analysis.

            Benny still leaves context out of his analysis.

            It is clear that our intrepid Benny only wants what’s good for his darling Palestinian Arabs but he gives diddly squat about our safety.

            Yes Benny, we happen to think that the end justifies the means because we are talking about OUR lives and we don’t want to be blown up by your darling Palestinian Arab suicide bombers twice a week.

            But if we would heed Yehuda’s admonitions, we would still experience what we experienced during the second intifada or worse. You don’t believe it? Well then just look at what happened to us between 2000 and 2006 (Not to mention previous history). You might also like to see how Arabs seem to handle armed conflict. Just look at Syria and Iraq. You might want to read up on the Lebanese civil war. Do you think your darling Palestinian Arabs would be more humane? I don’t. That is why as unpalateble as it is, I prefer to back the methods of our Generals.

            Now, Benny, stop being so single minded. Start looking at context and history and comment on how your darling Palestinians behaved and still behave, don’t just constantly throw mud at us. Otherwise you shoot your credibility to smitherenes.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            And here is another dishonesty which the Bennys of this world engage…

            They pretend that Palestinian Arab terrorism is/was caused because of the “occupation” and “the settlements”…

            Nothing could be further from the truth. Palestinian Arab terrorism against us dates back to the 1920s before there were settlements, occupation or even Israel.

            Moreover, after Oslo was signed by Rabin and Arafat, Palestinian Arab terrorism against us INCREASED not decreased. And the second Intifada started after Ehud Barak’s peace offer in 2000.

            So what our generals do, is a result of Palestinian Arab terror tactics against us. Terrorism is the cause, occupation tactics are the result. Get it Benny?!!

            No, of course you don’t get it. Because you are not interested in history, context and truth. You are only interested in spreading your mud throwing propaganda against Israel!

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            So Benny dear, are you listening?

            Your Palestinian Arab buddies consider ALL of Israel a big settlement. not just the “settlements” in the WB.

            Wanna know how we know? Because Hamas openly says so and the PLO too act so even if they pretend otherwise. They still refuse to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people which is the continuation of their 1947 policy when they rioted because the UN voted for a Jewish state.

            And they still expect Israel to accept up to 4 million descendants of Palestinian Arab refugees. Which we will NEVER accept because we are not suicidal!

            See Benny? I can repeat myself endlessly too. I will keep on repeating those facts as often as you keep on insisting on throwing your one sided propaganda at us. Get it?

            Reply to Comment
          • Noevil9

            Some people here are exposing themselves and their hypocrisy , by attacking others on personal bases, and if that says anything it says that they don’t have an argument based on facts or any others, so they lean toward the weakest method in the most coward way,and that is attacking others on personal bases. How pathetic and telling character of who they are and what the represent!

            Reply to Comment
    6. Richard Lightbown

      To thine own self be true.

      You’re on the right track Lauren, so keep going. It’s not easy, but it’s right. It may not get any easier, but it will get better, and something good will come of all this. Something that you can live with, in dignity and truth.

      Thank you so much for sharing this.

      Reply to Comment
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