The other day I tweeted an article that reported on a rather horrible story. It seems that the Israeli government gives African women drugs that keep them from reproducing.
I think if this story had been about Canada, Korea, France, or Brazil people would have read it. The conversation would not have immediately shifted to my alleged hatred of all Canadians.
Since it was about Israel, some people chose to announce that I hated Jews. Such a response is not only baseless and nonsensical, but it shifts attention to me and away from the story, which in the end isn’t seen.
Now, I don’t know any more about that story than what I’ve read at that website (the website of a Jewish organization, as it happens). The report may be accurate or not. Israeli newspapers seem to report it as fully established, neither doubted nor challenged. The story at least seems to merit investigation. The point is that nobody told me it was inaccurate (news that would have delighted me). Instead, they told me that I was anti-Semitic.
This happens with the United States too, of course. If I criticize the U.S. government a few thousand times, and if the president is a Republican, I’ll hear from some disturbed individual who wants to recommend that I leave the country since I hate it so much. Why one would try so hard to reform the government of a country he hated is never really explained.
With Israel, such nonsense is triggered much more swiftly. I haven’t made a career of trying to reform Israel’s government. All I had to do was tweet a link to an article. Those who have gone to greater lengths to criticize the crimes of the government of Israel have, in some cases, seen themselves censored, vilified, and their careers derailed. Many persevere despite this climate.
There is, however, a way to speak openly and honestly about Israel. Not everyone can do it. The trick is to be a veteran of the Israeli military. This approach helps people whose “service” was years ago. And it helps those whose memories of what they did “for their country” are very fresh. Not only does such status shield one from a great deal of criticism, but it provides a substantive advantage in being able to report first-hand on what the Israeli military has been doing. Just as Veterans For Peace are able to speak with some legitimate authority in the United States against the use of war (see Winter Soldier now if you haven’t), members of the Israeli military, and those who recently were Israeli soldiers, command attention.
A new book called Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers’ Testimonies from the Occupied Territories 2000-2010, collects the accounts of numerous Israeli soldiers, although withholding their names. Videos of some of the soldiers telling their stories can be seen online. The online database sorts the stories into categories: › Abuse› Assassinations› Bribery› Checkpoints› Confirmation of killing› Curfews/closures› Deaths› Destruction of property› Human shields› Humiliation› Looting› Loss of livelihood› Routine› Rules of engagement› Settlements› Settler violence.
“Supporting the troops” is usually understood to exclude listening to the troops. But these troops should be listened to. Their experiences are very similar to those of the U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq. But their war has lasted much, much longer, and with no end in sight. Their testimonies make clear that their tactics do not serve the supposed purpose of reducing violence, and are in fact not intended to do any such thing. The bizarre ordeals imposed on the soldiers outdo Kafka and pale in comparison to the nightmares imposed on Palestinians. The driving forces are quite clearly racism, sadism, imperialism, and excessive obedience.
A very few of the many samples I was tempted to provide: