Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers' Testimonies from the Occupied Territories, 2000-2010
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Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers' Testimonies from the Occupied Territories, 2000-2010

by Breaking the Silence

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Israeli soldiers speak out for the first time about the truth of the Palestinian occupation, in "one of the most important books on Israel/Palestine in this generation" (The New York Review of Books)

The very name of the Israel Defense Forces—which many Israelis speak of as "the most moral army in the world"—suggests that its primary

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Israeli soldiers speak out for the first time about the truth of the Palestinian occupation, in "one of the most important books on Israel/Palestine in this generation" (The New York Review of Books)

The very name of the Israel Defense Forces—which many Israelis speak of as "the most moral army in the world"—suggests that its primary mission is the defense of the country's territory. Indeed, both internationally and within Israel, support for the occupation of Palestinian territory rests on the belief that the army's actions and presence in the West Bank and Gaza are essentially defensive and responsive, aimed at protecting the country from terror.

But Israeli soldiers themselves tell a profoundly different story. In this landmark work, which includes hundreds of soldiers' testimonies collected over a decade, what emerges is a broad policy that is anything but defensive. In their own words, the soldiers reveal in human and vivid detail how the key planks of the army's ostensibly protective program—"prevention of terror," "separation of populations," "preservation of the fabric of life," and "law enforcement"—have in fact served to accelerate acquisition of Palestinian land, cripple all normal political and social life, and ultimately thwart the possibility of independence.

The many soldiers who have spoken out have taken aim at a silence of complicity, both within Israel and in the wider world, that perpetuates the justification for occupation. In the process, they have created a gripping and immediate record of oppression. Powerful and incontrovertible, Our Harsh Logic is a supremely significant contribution to one of the world's most vexed conflicts.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Random brutality, Kafkaesque bureaucracy, hatred, and dehumanization: that’s the face of Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza as described by disaffected soldiers in this troubling oral history. These interviews with 106 anonymous IDF veterans who served in the occupied territories, gathered by the Israeli human rights group Breaking the Silence, tell of indiscriminate mass arrests and beatings; of random searches, trashings, and seizures of Palestinian homes; of arbitrary military regulations, permits, and checkpoints that make everyday life for Palestinians a gauntlet of harassment and humiliation. Interviewees describe farmers weeping as their orchards are bulldozed to accommodate separation barriers and IDF troops taking potshots at passersby, blowing a woman to bits to gain entry into her home, and murdering unarmed Palestinian policemen in cold blood. It’s a tapestry of chaos, but the editors see in it the “harsh logic” of an Israeli policy designed to intimidate and dispossess the Palestinians. The book is a hard read in every way; the barely edited interviews are confusing and are presented without journalistic context or verification. Still, it conveys a truth about the inescapable ugliness of Israel’s military rule over its neighbors. 20 photos, 3 maps. Agent: Geri Thoma, Markson Thoma Literary Agency. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
A soldier's-eye view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Breaking the Silence, an NGO founded in 2004 by Israeli Defense Forces veterans, isn't likely to gain fans among the Likud for this collection of oral histories and testimonials from Israeli soldiers, almost all of them recounting episodes of oppression of the Palestinian minority. "In school they're given the same worth as other human beings," says one soldier of the Palestinians, whom he encounters daily at checkpoints and on patrols, "also at home, and also in the army according to the rules, but when you interfere in people's lives like that, and you're in control, and you can decide when he eats and when he does whatever, he slowly loses his worth." The soldiers are nothing if not self-reflective, but their "harsh logic" would seem to be no different from that of any other occupying force: The other is to be feared and mistrusted, but also separated and tightly controlled, even at the risk of dehumanizing both occupied and occupier. "I hated them," says another soldier. "I was such a racist there, as well, I was so angry at them for their filth, their misery, the whole fucking situation." The testimonials have a depressing sameness: We thought we had to do it, many of them say, and we did it to a fault. That "it" might involve kidnapping or killing a suspected terrorist, but just as likely it involved lobbing shells to keep people from their sleep in a psychological ploy, to say nothing of entering a home and smashing a family's belongings. All these things come through loud and clear--as does the soldiers' disdain for illegal Israeli settlers who only multiply the bitterness and bloodshed. Humanitarian activists and opponents of those settlements will find much ammunition in these pages.

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Product Details

Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author

Breaking the Silence, one of Israel's most internationally lauded NGOs, was established in Jerusalem in 2004 by Israel Defense Forces veterans to document the testimonies of Israeli soldiers who have served in the occupied territories.

Read an Excerpt

1. Stun grenades at three in the morning



YEAR: 2003

We did all kinds of very sketchy work in Area A.* That could mean, for example, going into Tubas on a Friday, when the market is packed, to set up a surprise checkpoint in the middle of the village. One time, we arrived to set up a checkpoint like that on Friday morning, and we started to spread out: inspecting vehicles and every car that passed. Three hundred meters from us some kids start a small demonstration. They throw rocks at us, but they come maybe ten meters and don’t hit us. They start cursing us and everything. At the same time, a crowd of people gathers. Of course, this was followed by aiming our weapons at the kids—you can call it self-defense.

What was the purpose of the checkpoint?

Just to show our presence, to get into a firefight—we didn’t know whether that would happen or not. In the end we got out without a scratch, without anything happening, but the company commander lost it. He asked one of the grenade launchers to fire a riot control grenade toward the demonstrators, the children. The grenade launcher refused, and afterward he was treated terribly by the company commander. He wasn’t punished, because the company commander knew he’d given an illegal order, but he was treated really disgustingly by the staff. That’s what happened. Another time we went into Tubas at three in the morning in a Safari and threw stun grenades in the street. For no reason, just to wake people up.

What was the point?

To say, “We’re here. The IDF is here.” In general, they told us that if some terrorist heard the IDF in the village, then maybe he’d come outside to fight. No one ever came out. It seems that the goal was just to show the local population that the IDF is here, and it’s a common policy: “The IDF is here, in the Territories, and we’ll make your life bitter until you decide to stop the terror.” The IDF has no problem doing it. But we didn’t understand why we were throwing grenades. We threw a grenade. We heard a “boom,” and we saw people waking up. When we got back they’d say, “Great operation,” but we didn’t understand why. This happened every day—a different force from the company did it each time, it was just part of the routine, part of our lives.

Copyright © 2012 by Breaking the Silence


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