As the mother of a US Navy veteran, I decided it was my responsibility to sit quietly and read the full report (240 pages) released by Breaking the Silence, an organization of Israeli veteran combatants who expose the truth of their service in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The report details the brutal and unethical actions of #IDF soldiers and their commanders during the Protective Edge Operation in Gaza in the summer of 2014.
Mothers of warriors everywhere suffer alongside their sons and daughters when they go off to fight. I can’t imagine the unbelievable pain if they don’t return home. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers did not return home last summer. Fifteen soldiers committed suicide, slightly more than double the number from 2013.
In Gaza, civilian casualties greatly exceeded the number of resistance fighters who were killed. According to the United Nations, between July 7 and August 26, at least 2131 Palestinians were killed in Gaza as a result of Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge.” 1473 of the dead were civilians, including 501 children and 257 women, with another 379 individuals yet to be identified.
The report is chilling.
This Is How We Fought In Gaza is a collection of testimonies from over 60 soldiers in mandatory and reserve service that took part in Operation “Protective Edge” in the Gaza Strip. About a quarter of the testifiers are officers that go all the way up to the rank of major. The testimonies underwent a meticulous investigative process to ensure their veracity. The testifiers, who served in various units – from ground, to naval, to air forces, and in headquarters and command centers – expose the nature of IDF operations in various combat zones. The testimonies in this collection close the yawning gaps between what the IDF and government spokespersons told the public about the combat scenarios, and the reality described by the soldiers that took part in the operation.
While the testimonies include pointed descriptions of inappropriate behavior by soldiers in the field, the more disturbing picture that arises from these testimonies reflects systematic policies that were dictated to IDF forces of all ranks and in all zones. The guiding military principle of “minimum risk to our forces, even at the cost of harming innocent civilians,” alongside efforts to deter and intimidate the Palestinians, led to massive and unprecedented harm to the population and the civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. Policymakers could have predicted these results prior to the operation and were surely aware of them throughout.
Democracy Now featured the #IDF soldiers’ testimony and Breaking the Silence posted many clips on its website. I weep for the Palestinians and for these soldiers too. While commentators speculate that Netanyahu’s new coalition will move Israel further to the extreme, I think my focus has to be on educating Americans and the U.S. Congress about the “facts on the ground” in Gaza.