individual soldiers. “Whatever a soldier believes when they begin their military service, there is no way to behave ethically in the occupied territories”, he says. “It’s a system in which Palestinians are always treated as inferior, always viewed as the enemy, whoever they are. “Every day the job is to inflict collective punishment. We were told explicitly that we were waging psychological war, that we were there to intimidate them. In the middle of the night we raided families’ homes, chosen randomly, waking up frightened children. We violently broke up Palestinian protests. I arrested Palestinians every day to ‘dry them out’ – to teach them a lesson, to make them understand who is boss”. Yet, in Israel, the military is regarded as an almost sacred institution. Breaking the Silence casts a long, dark shadow over claims that Israel’s is the most moral army in the world. Hebron is ground zero for much of the group’s work, where military service is a rite of passage for Israeli combat soldiers. The group’s tour attracts some back later in life, either after they grow troubled by their earlier experiences enforcing the occupation or because they want to show family members what their service was like. Some go on to testify to the group, says Ori Givati, Mr Even-Paz’s colleague on the tour. “When they come with us to places like Hebron, the memories flood back. They recall things they did that they can now see in a different light”. With the spread of phone cameras in recent years, the dark underbelly of the occupation in Hebron has been ever harder to conceal, confirming the soldiers’ testimonies. Palestinians have captured on video everything from terrified small children being dragged off the street by soldiers into military Jeeps to an army medic, Elor Azaria, using his rifle to execute a prone Palestinian man by shooting him in the head from close range.
srael has carved Hebron into two zones, part of its “separation policy”. H1, the city’s western side, is nominally under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, except when Israel de-
cides otherwise. H2, a fifth of the city and home to somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 Palestinians (the number is contested), is where settlers and soldiers rule. They are supported by a much larger neighbouring settlement of 8,000 religious Jews, Kiryat Arba, hemming in Hebron’s eastern flank.
Many of the settlers have licences to carry army-issue rifles and handguns The chain of settlements form a spear of territory thrusting into Hebron’s throat from the main body of H2 and Kiryat Arba. “The idea is to make life so intolerable the Palestinians will choose to expel themselves”, Mr Even-Paz says. “Unemployment among Palestinians is about 70 per cent in H2, so the pressure is on the residents to move into H1 or out of Hebron entirely”. In their place, the settlers have taken over. Carefree looking couples wander with push chairs, men and boys hurry to seminaries, bored teenagers study their phones on street corners, and families lounge at bus stops for the frequent services connecting them to Jerusalem and elsewhere. Everything, says Mr Even-Paz, from water and electricity to rents and public transport, is subsidised to encourage Jews to move here. Amid the surrounding Palestinian homes, all of this “normality” takes place in a controlled environment that is anything but. It is enforced by heavily fortified checkpoints, razor-wire, watchtowers, army patrols and rooftop sentries watching every move. Many of the settlers have licences to carry army-issue rifles and handguns. As elsewhere in the occupied territories, Israel has imposed two systems of law. Palestinians, including children, face summary arrest, military trial and draconian punishment, while settlers operate under an Israeli civil law that involves due process and a presumption of innocence – though even this is rarely enforced against them. “They know they are untouchable”, says Mr Even-Paz. “The army’s rules of engagement mean soldiers can’t enforce the law on Israeli ci-
ColdType | Mid-October 2018 | www.coldtype.net
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