Friday, October 3, 2008

Breaking the Silence

By Cherrie Heywood

"RAMALLAH, West Bank, Oct 2 (IPS) - An Israeli police commander has called them "provocateurs", "militants", and, "lawbreakers". Earlier in the year the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) decided that their presence in the city of Hebron, 30km south of Jerusalem in the Palestinian West Bank, constituted a security threat and banned them from the city, stating that any member of the organisation caught there would be expelled forthwith.

They've been spat at, stoned and assaulted, but these former members of the IDF, many of whom served in Hebron, are determined to expose what is being done in their name and in the name of Israel's security.

Breaking the Silence (BTS) was co-founded in 2004 by Yehuda Shaul, 26, an Israeli soldier who served for nearly three years in the volatile city of Hebron.

The organisation's main aim is to break the silence and taboo surrounding the behaviour of Israeli soldiers in the Palestinian territories in an endeavour to enlighten ordinary Israelis on what happens behind the scenes as their sons and daughters, husbands and wives serve the Jewish state.......

While hundreds of Yesh Gvul activists have been jailed for being conscientious objectors, Ofer Neiman, 37, a computer science lecturer from Jerusalem, was kicked out of an intelligence unit of the Israeli Air Force (AIF) where he served.

"I refused to be part of an intelligence unit which provided information on the possible bombing of civilian targets in the territories," Neiman told IPS. "I also began a campaign of letter writing to the then IDF chief of staff, Dan Halutz."

Halutz was responsible for ordering the dropping of a one-tonne bomb on a crowded residential apartment building in a densely populated Gaza neighbourhood in 2002. The bomb killed Hamas leader Salah Shehade. Amongst the civilian casualties were 14 children."

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