‘Breaking the Silence’ on West Bank Abuse
TEL AVIV, June 23 -- Military police on Wednesday interrogated three Israeli reserve soldiers who organized an exhibit of photographs and videotapes chronicling mistreatment of Palestinians by troops and Jewish settlers.
statement issued by the military said the three men were ordered to provide
testimony as part of an investigation into the “allegedly violent crimes
against Palestinians and damage to Palestinian property” depicted in the show.
army wants to keep us quiet and scare us away,” Micha Kurz, 22, said after
what he described as seven hours of questioning by investigators.
not going to shut us up, because we have a lot to say, and they’re not going
to scare us off.”
said police raided the exhibit at Tel Aviv College late Tuesday and confiscated
a videotape in which young troops expressed anguish over their behavior.
Yehuda Shaul and Yonatan Baumfeld, who finished their mandatory three years of
active duty three months ago, assembled more than 80 provocative photographs
taken by troops assigned to the volatile West Bank city of Hebron and created a
video of soldiers describing humiliation and abuses suffered by Palestinian
civilians at their hands, as well as those of Jewish settlers.
exhibition, called “Breaking the Silence,” is the most graphic example yet
of concerns being voiced by influential Israeli soldiers and officers over the
tactics and techniques of the armed forces’ occupation of the West Bank and
Gaza Strip. Last year, reservists from the military’s top commando unit,
respected pilots, four former chiefs of Israel’s powerful domestic security
service and hundreds of other soldiers went public with concerns over the
a letter to visitors posted at the entrance of the exhibit at the college’s
Academy for Geographic Photography, the soldiers said: “We decided to speak
out. Hebron isn’t in outer space. It’s one hour from Jerusalem.”
photographs in the exhibit capture the hatred of Jewish settler graffiti --
“Arabs to the Gas Chambers!” -- and the callousness of soldiers lounging on
a coffee break while a 15-year-old Palestinian sits blindfolded and handcuffed
on a nearby chair, a position the show’s organizers said he was forced to
endure for 16 hours. The youth was accused of throwing stones at soldiers.
one of the most arresting pictures, two stick-wielding Palestinian boys play a
game of “hands up,” pretending they are Israeli soldiers lining up four
other Palestinian children, including a female toddler in a pink suit, against a
wall. An Israeli soldier stands nearby, grinning, an assault rifle cradled in
his arms. Another picture shows settler children ripping down the brick wall of
a Palestinian shop.
voices of soldiers on two television screens in the gallery buttress the photo
display. Although some of the soldiers allowed their faces to be shown in the
film, none of their names are used.
soldier described an evening when he and his men came upon a Palestinian wedding
party driving through Hebron during a military-imposed curfew.
get out of the jeep,” he says. “You see the groom, you see the bride, the
father. As they go out [of their car] you see on their faces the fear.”
deputy commander did not want to allow the wedding party to pass, according to
the soldier, who adds: “He wants to spoil everything, so they go home. He
takes the car keys.
bride is crying, the father of the groom is really begging,” he continues.
“You see on their face how they are anxious about the most significant day in
their life. On the other hand, I can see the deputy commander looks at them and
does not see them as humans.”
the soldiers aim some of their starkest criticism at the Jewish settlers who
live in central Hebron, closer to Palestinian neighborhoods than any other
settlement in the West Bank.
settlers whom we were meant to protect rioted, occupied houses and confronted
the police and army both physically and verbally,” the soldiers wrote in their
letter to visitors.
is done in the name of religion is allowed,” a soldier says on the videotape.
“To break into shops, that is allowed. As a soldier I really felt a problem
because I came from a family that has values, morals.”
that appeared benign took on an ominous edge when organizers described the
events preceding or following the snap of the shutter.
one such photo, a smiling, red-bearded settler grips a gun in one hand and
guitar in the other. The guitar is plastered with stickers. One reads, “Either
us or them. Arab enemy.” A uniformed soldier holds his own rifle as though it
were a guitar and grins for the camera.
Salmi, director of the Academy for Geographic Photography, explained that on his
way to play the guitar for the soldiers, the settler shot out the tires of
several Palestinians’ cars.
said thousands of people have visited the exhibit, including numerous soldiers
and their families.
photographs also illustrate a soldier’s view of war: the cityscape as seen
through a bullet hole in a window; a young Palestinian man captured in the
crosshairs of a sniper rifle as he feeds his pigeons on a rooftop; Palestinian
schoolchildren seen through the anti-grenade grill on the window of an army
On Wednesday, Liat Mor, 18, who will begin her mandatory army service next year, stood transfixed before the photos. “It’s pretty shocking,” she said. “You know it’s a different universe. That’s why I’m here -- to get prepared.”
She scrutinized a close-up of a blindfolded Palestinian man. “I don’t think it will help,” she said.
Home Page | Al-Hewar
Center | Calendar | Magazines | Subscriptions | Feedback | Advertising | About
Copyright © 2004 Al-Hewar Center, Inc. All rights reserved.
For more information, please
contact Al-Hewar via e-mail