BRUSSELS – For the first time, Israeli NGO Reservists on Duty addressed the EU Parliament in Brussels.
Four reservist combat soldiers shared emotional testimonies, emphasizing the difficulty and shock they’ve experienced when confronted by Palestinian terrorists using human shields – mainly women and children.
Noy Leyb, who was born in Canada and made aliyah when he was 18, said that although he was trained to fight, he never thought he’d have “to face two innocent Palestinian teenagers” who had been sent to infiltrate into Israel from Gaza by Hamas to check the IDF’s blind spots and try to attack soldiers.
“It was 2 a.m. and the two 14-year-olds who had infiltrated through the border were shivering and shaking [from fear]. They were holding knives – not hiding them like terrorists usually do – and had been given a ‘glorified story’ to take knives and kill an IDF soldier.”
He said that when he saw them all he could think was: “What are these kids doing here?”
Leyb explained that war is not “black and white, it’s dirty,” but “when I see kids being used in warfare, it sickens me.”
“It’s unforgivable,” he said, adding that it was time for Europe and its politicians to wake up.
Noam Kampler explained that one of the most eye-opening experiences for him was when he arrested the 15-year-old terrorist who had murdered nurse and mother of four, Daphna Meir, in Otniel.
“All I could think was: How can a 15-year-old kid stab a mother of four to death? How could he have committed such an evil, brutal attack?” he recalled.
“My sister [at the time] was 15 years old and she goes to school and plays with Barbies,” he said, still visibly shaken by the memory.
For Shai Ochayon, confronting and capturing the terrorist who murdered Eitam and Naama Henkin in a shooting attack in front of their children, was tough because the terrorist came out of his home surrounded by his own family.
“There was a woman – the age of my mother – who came out holding a young baby, and behind her a young boy and young girl and he was between them,” he said. Ochayon added that he was shocked that this terrorist was “willing to endanger those closest to him. I wish I could say this was the last time this has happened, but it’s not.”
“Me and my friends have been shot at from groups of civilians... this has to stop,” he emphasized.
One of the biggest concerns for the four soldiers they said is the culture of hate toward Israelis that is being impressed upon Palestinian children.
“Mickey Mouse is being used to instill hate,and to throw stones at IDF soldiers and kill Jews,” one of the delegates said. “It’s not just one child in a thousand, the majority of children are going through this.”
“How can we achieve peace when the foundations are wrong?” another questioned.
Christian Arab Jonathan Elkhoury was born in southern Lebanon and came to Israel with his family after Israel pulled out of the area in 2000.
He said until Israel pulled out, they enjoyed a good relationship with the IDF, but once the PLO and later Hezbollah took over, residents experienced being used as human shields.
“Israel opened its borders to us... it is a democracy that protects minority groups,” he said, adding that he is speaking on behalf on minority groups in the Middle East.
“In Israel, Christians are thriving,” but in the rest of the Middle East, Elkhoury said, Christians are being persecuted and killed.
He appealed to the EU to put pressure on Palestinian Authority to give residents their basic human rights, “human rights that we receive here in Israel.”
Czech EU Parliament Member Tomáš Zdechovsky, who hosted the group, said that it was important to fight against terrorism.
“In the EU Parliament, they are only getting information from one side, but it is much more complex,” he explained. “It’s important hear the truth first hand, and to hear both sides.”
He said that antisemitism is “ever growing” and doing so at a rapid rate.
Following the testimonial, Austrian European Parliament member Heinz Becker commended the group and said he was impressed by the testimonies “and the way you’re expressing your ethical background.”
“It’s a very important message to the political public,” he said, adding that he promises his full support.
Parallel to the event, Breaking the Silence, an Israeli NGO which is made up of former IDF soldiers who report about their negative experiences serving over the Green Line, held a photo exhibition for “revealing the violence and discrimination, which IDF soldiers have had to carry out in Hebron and other parts of the occupied territories in the West Bank.”
Breaking the Silence spokesman Dean Issacharoff told The Jerusalem Post that their main goal “is to expose the reality of the occupation and to show people what we did as soldiers and were sent to do in the occupied territories.”
“We are reminding people of the Baruch Goldstein massacre... and we are reminding people that 25 years later, Bibi [Benjamin] Netanyahu is paving the way for Goldsteins’ friends to come back into the Israeli parliament and that is a direct cost of the occupation on both Palestinian and Israeli society,” Issacharoff said.
Asked about whether they are concerned their use of the terms apartheid and occupation, will perpetuate antisemitism, Issacharoff said he had read reports written by groups labeled as antisemites, and “they quote Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked and Netanyahu much more than they quote any civil rights or human rights organizations.”
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