The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Breaking The Silence I

Since the report Breaking The Silence [PDF] about Israeli war crimes and use of human shields during the Gaza War is not getting much coverage in the American and international press (certainly the major papers - nothing in the NYT so far), I will be reproducing parts of it here.

Sometimes the force would enter while placing rifle barrels on a civilian's shoulder, advancing into a house and using him as a human shield. Commanders said these were the instructions and we had to do it… Anyway, at the concluding debriefing, he (the unit commander) said he didn't know about these things, and the guys, commanders who had been there the first week, said they saw civilians being assigned to break walls and enter with rifle barrels on their shoulders. He said he didn't know this and would look into it. i think nothing substantial had been done about it, i'm also in touch with one of the officers there at present and I don't know if an investigation was made and nothing was found or that nothing was cleared up. several weeks later, the story came out in the paper about these exact incidents, where they were given sledgehammers to break walls, in our area, this i can say with certainty.

In the IDF they call this the Johnny procedure:

The method used has a new name now _ no longer 'neighbor procedure.' now people are called 'Johnnie.' they're palestinian civilians, and they're called Johnnies and there were civilians there who stayed in spite of the flyers the army distributed before it went in. Most people did leave, but some civilians stayed to watch over the houses. perhaps they had nowhere else to go. Later we saw people there who could not walk, some simply stayed to keep watch. to every house we close in on, we send the neighbor in, 'the Johnnie,' and if there are armed men inside, we start, like working the 'pressure cooker' in the West Bank.

. . .

the commanders tell what they saw and make sure we know how things work on the inside. they also talked about things that bothered them. they said that civilians were used to a greater extent than just sending them into houses. For example, some of them were made to smash walls with 5 kilo sledgehammers. there was a wall around a yard where the force didn't want to use the gate, it needed an alternative opening for fear of booby-traps or any other device. so the "Johnnies" themselves were required to bang open another hole with a sledgehammer.

Uri Avnery has an article about the Johnnies.