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Home » Soldiers »

Testimony: "They say to you, 'you're supposed to defend me, not them'"


Name: Anonymous
Rank: First Sergeant
Unit: Nahal 50th Battalion
Location: Nablus, West Bank
Date: 2012
An Israeli soldier provides a testimony to Breaking the Silence in which he describes blocking Palestinian roads in the West Bank so settlers could march.
Soldier: "I remember there was a procession of settlers and we blocked off a Palestinian road because the road to Yatma goes through Tapuach. We stopped the Palestinians who wanted to drive through at the junction. About 15 cars stood there, and whoever came later was turned away to come from a side road. And then all the kids and youth (the settlers) arrived and just started cursing at them and spitting at the Palestinians who were made to stand on the side. I was shocked that five-year-old kids were screaming curses: 'burn, sons of bitches' - horrible things.
Interviewer: "Why don't you say anything to them?"
Soldier: "We do, but they don't really care. You tell them to get out of there, to keep going, but they know you're not ... And then they say to you, 'you're supposed to defend me, not them', stuff like that."
Interviewer: "How long did those vehicles have to wait?"
Soldier: "It was around 40 minutes."
Interviewer: "They just couldn't move?"
Soldier: "Yes."
Interviewer: "Do you remember other cases like that?"
Soldier: "Yes. There's a field post - there was a con ict over to whom it belonged. It started one day and there was about a month of this. A Palestinian came to work there and then settlers assaulted him, kicked him out of there. Right under Tapuach. From there it grew bigger and bigger. In the end, there was an incident in which they (the army) agreed with this Palestinian that he would come to work there and we came to protect him, and there were tons of settlers. There were scuffles between the settlers and the Palestinians. The settlers ripped their bags of wheat that they had come to plant. Each time they ran and grabbed their things and threw their things out of there.
Interviewer: "But if the army is there, why don't they do anything to them?"
Soldier: " So the army’s there, you stand there and break it up, but they just don’t care."
Interviewer: "As the army you don't have authority over the settlers?"
Soldier: " The truth is, no. We always used to ask during all kinds of incidents, if the Jew does something, what am I supposed to do to him? And there wasn’t, they never provided an answer about what can be done."
Interviewer: "A Palestinian attacks a settler - what do you do?"
Soldier: "Grab him, arrest him. If it’s life threatening I can even shoot him, [shoot] in order [to kill]."
Interviewer: "A settler throws stones at a Palestinian, what do you do?"
Soldier: " I don’t know, everyone has his own judgments. There are no instructions about it."
Interviewer: "Are there rules of engagement?"
Soldier: "For Jews, no."
Interviewer: "Use of crowd control measures, is that allowed?"
Soldier: "No."
Interviewer: "Arresting or detaining settlers?"
Soldier: " Also no. In principle, what you’re supposed to do, in this case we would separate, stand in between them. The Jews there, the Arabs working there and we’re a line of soldiers standing in the middle. I remember their contact, they tried to push us in order to get to the Palestinians and we stopped them."
Interviewer: "And you weren’t allowed to do anything about that either?"
Soldier: "Aside from preventing them from reaching the Palestinians, no."
Interviewer: "Were there instructions on what to do with settlers should they attack army or security forces?"

"No. They never talked to us about it. I remember they gave us talks about the complexity. A senior of cer in our company was a settler, from the Valley. It really concerned him and he gave us two talks about it, that it’s complicated when Jews push us and do things like that. But he never touched on what we should do about it."
Interviewer: "It’s complicated when settlers attack soldiers?"
Soldier: "Yes."