“You feel like an infantile little kid with a magnifying glass looking at ants, burning them.”
Half a year after Operation Cast Lead, the organization Breaking the Silence has released a new booklet that includes numerous testimonies by soldiers who participated in the operation. The testimonies expose significant gaps between the official stances of the Israeli military and events on the ground.
Fifty-four testimonies of Israeli combat soldiers who participated in Operation Cast Lead reveal gaps between the reports given by the army following January’s events; the needless destruction of houses; firing phosphorous in populated areas and an atmosphere that encouraged shooting anywhere.
Among the 54 testimonies are stories revealing the use of “accepted practices,” the destruction of hundreds of houses and mosques for no military purpose, the firing of phosphorous gas in the direction of populated areas, the killing of innocent victims with small arms, the destruction of private property, and most of all, a permissive atmosphere in the command structure that enabled soldiers to act without moral restrictions. The booklet compiles the testimonies of about 30 reserve and regular combat soldiers from various units that participated in the fighting. The testimonies demonstrate that the soldiers were not given directives stating the goal of the operation and, as one soldier testifies, “there was not much said about the issue of innocent civilians.”
Many soldiers said that they fought without seeing “the enemy before their eyes.” “You feel like an infantile little kid with a magnifying glass looking at ants, burning them,” one of the soldiers testified that “a 20-year-old kid should not have to do these kinds of things to other people.”
“The testimonies prove that the immoral way the war was carried out was due to the systems in place and not the individual soldier,” said Mikhael Mankin from “Breaking the Silence.” “What was proven yesterday is that through the IDF the exception becomes the norm, and this requires a deep and reflective discussion. This is an urgent call to Israel’s society and leadership to take a sober look at the foolishness of our policies.”
Breaking the Silence is an organization of veterans who served in the Israeli military during the Second Intifada (since September 2000) and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the routine situations of everyday life in the Occupied Territories.