The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged breakingthesilence
Breaking The Silence II
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, I will be reproducing parts of it here.

In this second installment, a soldier talks about the briefings received from top IDF brass:

Let's say that the general approach was 'we're going off to war' and i can swear i heard our brigade commander at least once, when sitting with us during maneuvers for a combatants’ talk around the campfire at tze'elim at night – he happened to join us and we asked him what was going on in gaza and what was to be expected, stuff like that, and he went so far as to say this was war and in war as in war, no consideration of civilians was to be taken. You shoot anyone you see. I'm paraphrasing here, not literally quoting, but the gist of the matter was very clear.

How did people take this?

Look, we're a pretty old company. We're a founding battalion, all of us are 33 years old, and we took this very skeptically, a bit fearful of the army's approach. I know for myself, i don't know what every single guy that night felt about it. I know personally that this pretty much disgusted me. There was a clear feeling, and this was repeated whenever others spoke to us, that no humanitarian consideration played any role in the army at present. The goal was to carry out an operation with the least possible casualties for the army, without its even asking itself what the price would be for the other side. This was the thrust of things that we heard from more than one officer.
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.