Israel: Soldiers “break the silence”

[Originally published here on the WITNESS Hub Blog.]

I spent part of today talking to a military expert about the military’s changing role in ending mass atrocities, and it made me think hard about what role the experiences of soldiers might play in a human rights-focused space like the Hub – on which, more soon.  (What do you think?  Know good examples?  Let me know via the comments box below.)

I got back to find that F had emailed me a report that the Israeli army has launched an investigation into the conduct of its troops during Operation Cast Lead after stories emerged at a military academy of killings of Gaza civilians.  The mention of “Breaking The Silence” in that report led me to an interview earlier this month given by a former Israeli solder to the UK’s Independent On Sunday newspaper about his role in a “botched ambush that killed two Palestinian bystanders, as well as the two militants targeted” eight years ago.

The soldier interviewed by the Independent was one of many that have given testimony to Breaking The Silence (in Hebrew, Shovrim Shtika), “an organization of veteran Israeli soldiers that collects testimonies of soldiers who served in the Occupied Territories during the Second Intifadah.”

Last year, Breaking The Silence released a series of anonymised video interviews with several Israeli veterans.  Here’s one from the series:

You can see the rest of the series (in English and Hebrew) here, and a longer documentary about BTS over here.  There are a couple of illuminating pieces about BTS’s activities from Nextbook and IPS.  You can see a selection of soldiers’ photographs (with English captions), and a reaction from a Palestinian perspective to a BTS photographic exhibition at Harvard a year ago.  Finally, don’t forget the fascinating Waltz With Bashir, and from former IDF cameraman Yariv HorowitzAftershock, a controversial short documentary about Israeli soldiers’ trauma during the first Intifada.

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