border police arrest 298.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Breaking the Silence, the NGO which collects mostly anonymous testimony from soldiers serving in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, released a booklet on Sunday containing interviews with 96 female soldiers who reported witnessing or taking part in violence or degrading treatment of Palestinians since the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000.
The 122-page booklet uses the testimonies to describe a climate in which female soldiers use force to prove themselves to their male counterparts and the largely male Palestinian population they are policing, a climate that the testimonies say leads to abuses of power.
“Girls have to prove themselves more [than boys]. A female fighter who hits [Palestinians] is a serious, capable fighter, she’s seen as a hotshot,” a female staff-sergeant in the Border Police is quoted as saying.
The sergeant adds that in the barracks, female soldiers swap stories about the use of force by other women in uniform, saying, “Have you seen her, the way she breaks them down, slaps them, what a blow she gave that one, of course we talk about stuff like this.”
The booklet, which Breaking the Silence says was compiled with the assistance of the European Union, the government of the Netherlands, and the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development, also features the testimonies of soldiers who didn’t take part in violent or degrading actions, but reported witnessing or turning a blind eye to them.
One soldier, a sergeant serving at the Erez checkpoint on the border with the northern Gaza Strip, said that during her service she witnessed a routine procedure wherein commanders would beat Palestinians illegally residing in Israel before releasing them into Gaza.
Another soldier describes at length what she describes as a sort of crisis of conscience she underwent while serving at the Allenby Bridge at the Jordanian border, where as a soldier in her teens she held the fate of Palestinian civilians in her hand, an experience she says humanized her view of them.
In the booklet, Breaking the Silence says that “in contrast to the accepted belief in Israeli society, this mosaic of continuously widening abuses prove that these actions aren’t on the margins of the occupation and don’t represent only a few bad apples, rather, they prove the steady erosion of values taking place in Israeli society.”
The IDF Spokesman’s Office said in a statement Sunday that the fact that the booklet was compiled using anonymous testimonies leaves the IDF unable to investigate the alleged abuses of power. The office said the use of such a method “reveals the real goals” of Breaking the Silence.
The statement continues: “The IDF has a number of bodies whose purpose is to investigate incidents suspected of being illegal. Turning to these bodies is the right and responsibility of each and every soldier who believes that an illegal order has been carried out.”
The statement adds that troops in the Central Command wage a daily war against terrorist organizations and the IDF invests a great deal in preparing them to deal in a professional manner with the Palestinian civilian population.