March 02, 2002

A statement by Asaf Oron, one of the 251 Israeli soldiers who have refused to serve in the occupied territories.

 You get used to it in a hurry, and many even learn to like it.  Where else can you go out on patrol - that is, walk the streets like a king, harass and  humiliate pedestrians to your heart's content, and get into mischief with your buddies - and at the same time feel like a big hero defending your country?  The Gaza Exploits became heroic tales, a source of pride for Giv'ati, then a relatively new brigade suffering from low self esteem.

 For a long time, I could not relate to the whole "heroism" thing.  But when, as a sergeant, I found myself in charge, something cracked inside me. Without thinking, I turned into the perfect occupation enforcer.  I settled  accounts with "upstarts"  who didn't show enough respect.  I tore up the personal documents of men my father's age.  I hit, harassed, served as a bad example -  all in the city of Kalkilia, barely three miles from grandma and grandpa's home-sweet-home.  No.  I was no "aberration." I was exactly the norm.


Already on the bus ride to the Gaza strip, the soldiers were competing with each other: whose "heroic" tales of murderous beatings during the Intifada were better (in case you missed this point: the beatings were literally murderous:  beating to death).  Going on patrol duty with these guys once was all that I could take.  I went up to the placement officer and requested to be given guard duty only. Placement officers like people like me: most soldiers can't tolerate staying inside the base longer than a couple of hours.

And just to keep things positive, here's Neve Shalom/Wahat Al-Salam (the "Oasis of Peace"), a bilingual community where Palestinians and Israelis live, work, and go to school together.

posted by dru in activism