Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I didn’t know what a "demonstration of presence" really meant

Breaking the Silence, an Israeli organization of soldiers and ex-soldiers who have decided to tell their stories to expose the truth about Israeli military policies and actions in the occupied territories, has released a new book, Occupation of the Territories – Israeli Soldier Testimonies 2000-2010.  Here is an excerpt from the book which will be fully available online on Sunday (and I believe will be available in a printed version for purchase).  The city identified below, Yatta, is the closest city to At-Tuwani where I have spent the last few years.   

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Unit: Paratroopers
Location: South Hebron Hill
Year: 2001

They gave instructions to do some patrol inside. I think it was Yatta.
Is that what’s called “a demonstration of presence?”
A demonstration of presence.
Was it an order? Would you do it all the time?
No, that’s it…I didn’t get to do it a lot. There were a few specific cases. Meaning I got to do a demonstration of presence once or twice, but that specifically I know it wasn’t OK, I’ll explain right away. When we went in, we went in with that officer and another officer, and us. I personally as a soldier knew that there was an order to do a patrol, to do a “demonstration of presence.” I didn’t know what a “demonstration of presence” really meant. They went in, like basically all of us went in…we had an APC and a security patrol jeep if I’m not mistaken, and they fired rounds. Like the officers were…one was on the APC, you know, he aimed the APC so he had a MAG machine gun. We also fired our weapons sometimes…the officer would fire some more.
Fire in the air? Live rounds?
No, at houses, at garbage cans, things like that.
Shooting at a home means at the walls, the windows?
Both. Garbage cans, water heaters, things like that. Now the thing is, what became clear after the fact, we later heard on the radio, someone reported that he heard the shots from Yatta or the village that we were in, I don’t remember. So, no one knew…meaning they knew we were there, and they asked if we saw something, so the officers said: “No.” Apparently, I wasn’t near the radio at that point, but when we returned after the fact they said, the deputy company commander asked: “What, how could it be you didn’t hear anything there, they fired off rounds like crazy. So they said they didn’t hear anything. And basically it seems that they  weren’t supposed to fire a single bullet, it was really meant to be a patrol with the APC, you know, just for show.

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