[Marxism] Israeli Veterans’ Criticism of West Bank Occupation Incites Furor
amithrgupta at gmail.com
Thu Dec 24 09:08:42 MST 2015
Wow, what a terrible article by a cheap hack whose husband and family
members are arch-Zionists. Isabel Kershner's son serves in the Israeli army
and her husband is a pro-Israel propagandist:
The entire article wastes space on the opinions of various Israelis,
turning the discussion about atrocities against Palestinians into an
internal discussion among Israel's increasingly right-wing society, in
which any attempt to hold the Israeli army to account for its atrocities is
seen as a threat. The "positive" side of Breaking the Silence is apparently
that they're "strengthening" the regime that is slaughtering people? And
the "criticisms" of Israel's conduct are limited to a few security
restrictions? Anyone who has read a BTS report knows that they reveal far
more harrowing conduct than Kershner's whitewashed portrayal of Israeli
Instead we are told only that the group makes some ambiguous criticisms of
the army, whose conduct is unclear and therefore easy to portray as
innocent; and that the Israeli population is super-scared of small kids
with knives living in places that Israel is invading and destroying in the
first place. We are also told -- without any response -- that funding for
the group from European states, most of which continue to have normalized
relations with Israel, is some kind of threat to Israel's sovereignty. An
absurd suggestion about a state whose entire existence is based on wiping
out another population with support from Israel.
If Palestinians counted as people in Kershner's eyes, the notion of Israel
complaining about violations of sovereignty -- let alone over something as
small as foreign funding for liberal NGOs -- would be laughable, the
content of BTS reports would be accurately portrayed, and the regime that
is slaughtering people would not be given such an uncritical opportunity to
whitewash its massacres. But then again, I guess that would be expecting
too much from the New York Times.
On Thu, Dec 24, 2015 at 7:38 PM, Louis Proyect via Marxism <
marxism at lists.csbs.utah.edu> wrote:
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> NY Times, Dec. 24 2015
> Israeli Veterans’ Criticism of West Bank Occupation Incites Furor
> By ISABEL KERSHNER
> JERUSALEM — A few years after Avihai Stollar had completed his obligatory
> army service — which coincided with the second intifada — he was approached
> by a member of Breaking the Silence, a leftist organization of combat
> veterans that says it aims to expose the grim reality of Israel’s
> occupation of the West Bank.
> Mr. Stollar, who served as a platoon sergeant in an infantry unit south of
> Hebron, said he found himself recounting experiences that he said had
> seemed “logical” from the perspective of a soldier. As a civilian, he said:
> “Something opened up. I was in shock.”
> These were not “Srebrenica moments,” he said, referring to the massacre of
> Muslims during the Bosnian war, but mostly the more mundane mechanics of
> Israel’s occupation, like banning Palestinian vehicles from certain roads
> to reduce the threat of drive-by shootings, and punishing violators, even
> though they might have had no other route.
> Mr. Stollar, 32, is now the research director of Breaking the Silence, and
> at the center of a furor that is laying bare Israel’s divisions over its
> core values and the nature of its democracy.
> Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the group from the podium of
> the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, last week, accusing it of “slandering”
> Israeli soldiers before audiences around the world. The defense minister,
> Moshe Yaalon, described the group’s motives as “malicious” and banned it
> from activities involving soldiers. Naftali Bennett, the education minister
> in the government that is dominated by rightist and religious parties,
> banned it from entering state schools.
> The condemnations bolstered a new campaign by an Israeli ultranationalist
> organization, Im Tirtzu, which released a provocative video criticizing
> leaders of four leftist groups, including Breaking the Silence, for
> receiving financing from foreign governments and labeling them as foreign
> agents. President Reuven Rivlin was vilified for appearing recently at an
> Israeli peace conference in New York where representatives of the group
> also appeared.
> Now some retired generals are leading a counterattack.
> “Breaking the Silence strengthens the I.D.F. and its morality,” Amiram
> Levin, a former commander of the elite Sayeret Matkal unit, wrote in an
> advertisement that appeared on Friday in the liberal Haaretz newspaper,
> referring to the Israel Defense Forces. A former chief of the Shin Bet
> security service and a retired major general of the Israeli police then
> took out similar advertisements.
> Breaking the Silence highlights what it views as the corrosive nature of
> the occupation of the West Bank on Israeli society by publishing the
> testimonies of soldiers, mostly anonymously. Abuses like looting and the
> destruction of Palestinian property, it argues, have become the norm.
> Yet nearly half a century after Israel conquered that territory from
> Jordan in the 1967 war, the subject of the occupation is largely greeted
> with apathy in Israel. And the increasingly shrill debate about Breaking
> the Silence is less about the rights or wrongs of military rule in the West
> Bank and more about what kind of society Israelis want.
> “Breaking the Silence is perceived as unfairly attacking the I.D.F. and
> its conduct,” said Yohanan Plesner, the president of the Israel Democracy
> Institute, a nonpartisan research group in Jerusalem. “So they are putting
> themselves on a collision course with the most valued and respected
> institution in Israel and with the psyche of Israelis who feel they are in
> a struggle for survival.”
> And at a time Israelis fear for their safety amid a wave of stabbings,
> shootings and attacks with vehicles by Palestinians, and in the absence of
> condemnation from the Palestinian leadership, Mr. Plesner added, “There is
> not much patience for the message that the I.D.F. is in the wrong.”
> Human rights organizations and foreign governments have often accused the
> Israeli military of using excessive force, whether during deadly clashes in
> the West Bank or its offensives against Hamas and other militant groups
> that have fired rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Yet for many
> Israelis, who are conscripted at 18 for mandatory service of two or almost
> three years and who perform reserve duty, it holds a special place as a
> people’s army that protects its citizens in a hostile environment.
> The Israel Democracy Institute’s annual survey for 2015 found that the
> military was the national institution that earned the highest level of
> trust among Israeli Jews, with a score of 93.4 percent.
> Critics of Breaking the Silence emphasize that the group is partly funded
> by donations from European governments, which they say amounts to meddling
> in Israel’s internal affairs. The critics also accuse Breaking the Silence
> of feeding into international boycott efforts against Israel through its
> activities like photographic exhibits and lectures abroad.
> Last year, the group published a report containing testimonies from more
> than 60 Israeli officers and soldiers who served during the war in Gaza in
> 2014. It contended that the guiding military principle was one of “minimum
> risk to our forces, even at the cost of harming innocent civilians.” It
> added that caused “massive and unprecedented harm to the population and the
> civilian infrastructure” in Gaza.
> The group’s opponents question why it does not deal with its concerns
> internally. The Israeli military has a system for investigating allegations
> of misconduct and says it often looks into concerns raised by human rights
> groups. Mr. Yaalon, the defense minister, said that attempts were made in
> the past to examine claims made by Breaking the Silence members, but they
> were unsuccessful. The group says its personal testimonies have all been
> crosschecked, verified and passed through Israeli military censorship
> before publication.
> Mr. Stollar, the group’s research director, said he believed that Breaking
> the Silence had become the scapegoat for the government’s failed policies.
> “The occupation is blowing up in our faces,” he said. The group operated
> mostly in Israel but also abroad “because the debate over the occupation
> goes on outside Israel as well,” he said, noting that Israelis advocating
> settlement in the West Bank also promote their goals around the world.
> But Yoaz Hendel, a former director of communications for Mr. Netanyahu,
> said that Breaking the Silence’s criticism ignored the complexity and the
> dilemmas facing soldiers.
> “It is legitimate for someone to argue for a withdrawal to the 1967
> lines,” said Mr. Hendel, who served in an elite naval commando unit. “But
> in order to advance their political agenda, the tool they choose is to try
> to upend your identity. They say, ‘Yoaz, you are not human, you are a
> criminal.’ ”
> Gadi Wolfsfeld, a professor of political communications at the
> Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, said that the campaign
> against Breaking the Silence was indicative that Israel was “moving away
> from a liberal democratic model toward a non-liberal one.”
> Many Israelis despise the country’s leftist groups, especially when
> Israeli-Palestinian tensions are running high, he said.
> “You would think the right wing was in opposition, they are so angry,” he
> said. “You’d think those in power could be a little more tolerant.”
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