Breaking the Silence is an organization formed in 2004, made up of Israeli army veterans. On Saturday, they released a report to the international media on the abuse of Palestinian children.
According to the report, "Breaking the Silence is an organization of Israeli veterans who served during the Second Intifada, beginning in 2000."
"The organization aims to make public the everyday life routine as it exists in the Occupied Territories, a reality that remains voiceless in the media, and to serve as an alternative information conduit for the public at large about the goings-on in the State of Israel’s ‘backyard’."
The organization was founded in 2004, and since its inception, over 800 male and female soldiers have given testimony about their experiences in the military.
The report, which can be read here, contains more than 850 accounts, from 30 current and former Israeli soldiers, which describe the abuses they both committed or witnessed.
It lays out a story of abuse and harassment of Palestinian children in Gaza and the West Bank over the period 2005-2011.
Breaking the Silence gathered these statements in order to show the "common reality" of acts of violence by Israeli soldiers towards Palestinians, including children, in the occupied areas.
Yehuda Shaul of Breaking the Silence told the Guardian, "Sadly enough this is the moral consequence of prolonged occupation of the Palestinian people."
On the first page of the report is the following account:
“There was this incident where a ‘straw widow’ was put up following a riot at Qalandiya on a Friday, in an abandoned house near the square. Soldiers got out with army clubs and beat people to a pulp. Finally the children who remained on the ground were arrested. The order was to run, make people fall to the ground. There was a 10-12 man team, 4 soldiers lighting up the area. People were made to fall to the ground, and then the soldiers with the clubs would go over to them and beat them. A slow runner was beaten, that was the rule...”
Defense for Children International (DCI) representative, Gerard Horton, says that the testimonies in the document confirm a pattern of behavior, which has been uncovered by extensive research into the treatment of Palestinian children by Israeli soldiers. DCI, along with other human rights organizations, say that Palestinian children are as a matter of routine arrested at night, blindfolded, handcuffed, mistreated and denied access to a lawyer, or even their parents.
Horton says, "For years credible reports of human rights abuses against children living under Israeli military occupation have emerged. These latest testimonies from young soldiers given the task of enforcing the occupation provide further evidence of its deeply corrosive effects on all. The testimonies lay bare the day-to-day reality of the occupation. These are not isolated incidents or a question of 'a few bad apples'. This is the natural and foreseeable consequence of government policy."
Extracts from the report read as follows:
"At first you point your gun at some five-year-old kid, and feel bad afterward, saying it’s not right. Then you get to a point where… you get so nervous and sick of going into a village and getting stones thrown at you. But it’s obvious, you’re inside the village, you’ve just passed the school house, naturally the kids will throw stones at you. Once my driver got out, and without blinking, just grabbed some kid and beat him to a pulp. And that kid was just sitting in the street and looked like some other kid, or wore another kid’s shirt, or perhaps he was that kid but that's not the point. He beat him to a pulp. Didn’t detain him. Just beat him."
"On your first arrest mission, you’re sure it’s a big deal, and it’s actually bullshit. You enter the Abu Sneina (Hebron) neighborhood and pick up three children. After that whole briefing, you’re there with your bulletproof vest and helmet and stuck with that ridiculous mission of separating women and children. It’s all taken so seriously and then what you end up with is a bunch of kids, you blindfold and shackle them and drive them to the police station at Givat Ha’avot. That’s it, it goes on for months and you eventually stop thinking there are any terrorists out there, you stop believing there’s an enemy, it’s always some children or adolescents or some doctor we took out. You never know their names, you never talk with them, they always cry, shit in their pants."
The full report by Breaking the Silence can be read here.
More video statements by Israeli veterans can be viewed here.