Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Israel's Soldiers breaking silence.

I have long avoided saying anything about Israel's domestic and military policy because I did not consider myself well-informed enough to comment. But when any government, anywhere has foreign and domestic policies that are clearly causing irreparable to persons both in and out of their legitimate jurisdictions, that government is acting in a way that is clearly unethical. As clearly unethical actions always bring consequences, unethical policies always end up with a very large and painful mess that needs to be confronted, which the following excerpted paragraphs illustrate.

"Preach to Your Own People" Annotated

Mikhael Manekin, discharged from the IDF in 2002 is now the Foreign Relations Manager of Breaking the Silence which documents former IDF soldiers testimonies about the occupation and oppression of Palestinians, "I am a practicing Jew and in two weeks we go into the month of repentance; which requires acknowledging our sins. We cannot change things until we acknowledge our culpability.

"A few years ago, the soldiers you have encountered at the checkpoints would have been me. Soldiers like myself who served during the second intifada, got our education on the job. You all have visited more places [the past nine days] than most Israelis ever have. Israeli's have no idea what is happening in the occupied territories. But, so far in 2007 we have given more Israeli's a tour through Hebron than we did in 2005 and 2006 combined. Hebron is a ghost town, the settlers are unbearable and every soldier who is stationed there understands the 600 settlers there are psychotic; insane.

"I became very opinionated while in the army, but I kept it all to myself. Nobody talks about it in the army and I was the commander and did not know until after I got out that one of the other soldiers in my unit was feeling the same way, until he gave his testimony. Israeli society wants you to believe you are a bad apple for speaking out because unless you trust the system, it will fall apart. Most Israelis who get out of the army leave the country and are probably all drugged out. They suffer post traumatic syndrome but we are the victimizers. My age group is getting the hell out of here or walling themselves off from society and are not involved in anything.

"Over 450 former soldiers have now given their testimonies and we don't publish any stories without the corroboration coming from another former soldier and the testimonies are kept anonymous.

"We all served in the territories. Some served in Gaza, some in Hebron, some in Bethlehem and the rest served in other places. We all manned checkpoints, participated in patrols and arrests and took part in the war against terror. We all realized that the daily struggle against terror and the daily interaction with the civilian population has left us helpless. Our sense of justice was distorted, and so were our morality and emotions.
"The reality we experienced was made of: Innocent civilians being hurt, Kids not going to school because of the curfew, and parents who can't bring food home because they can't go to work.
The article goes on to state that young people are tending to leave Israel after serving with the IDF in the Occupied Terratories; they are voting against further support and defense of the State of Israel with their feet. Others retreat into the silence and disaffection brought by drugs and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I can only acclaim and honor their sacrifices - and their decision as to the worth of what it has bought. I am no expert - but it seems that those making the decisions that send these young men and women into harm's way are clearly no better equipped than I, or their policies would not have such hideous outcomes.

It's time that Israel divorces itself from the control of the religious fundamentalists who are clearly willing to sacrifice the lives and safety of - well, anyone in the Middle East and certainly all Israelis - for the goal of a chimerical Greater Israel.

I have always been in favor of the State of Israel, and for the longest time I, like many of my fellow countrymen, was willing to overlook the means in the name of the end. I still do, in the case of the establishment of Israel.

But I must state:

"That which is hateful to you, do not do unto others."

Of all the people in the world who should understand why it is both wrong and foolish to deprive others of their liberty and economic opportunity, to subject them to harassment, to herd them into ghettos and subject them to the daily threat of arbitrary and quite possibly deadly violence at the hand of the state or at the hands of persons within the dominant culture, it should be Jews.

It seems to me that the current course of the State of Israel, encouraged by both religious extremists and hard-line Zionists is causing the state of Israel to commit every sin ever committed against it - and I must speak up now, before it is guilty of the greatest crime against the soul of the Jewish people possible - a new holocaust. And that is, I am deeply sad to say, entirely within the realm of possibility, considering the current course of Israeli policy.

I anticipate accusations of anti-semitism, but in fact this is the opposite. I wish to see a powerful, flourishing, happy, peaceful Israel who is at peace with her neighbors, this is what I believe US supporters of Israel have always felt that the Jewish people are entitled to.

But then, it's something all people are entitled to - and it is a goal that cannot be pursued at the expense of others. Aside from being unethical and immoral, it clearly does not work.

Oh, should anyone wish to observe that this advice clearly applies to the US as well - Amen, and Selah.

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