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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom

Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace

Breaking the Silence soldiers tour U.S.

The Jewish Voice and Herald

March 21, 2008

By Mary Korr

PROVIDENCE – Tel Aviv native Oded Na’aman was an idealist when he entered the Israeli Army during the Second Intifada. His experiences, however, left him numbed, confused, and silent — until he joined Breaking the Silence, a forum for former combat veterans.

The group is touring the United States with a multi-media exhibit most recently held at Harvard Hillel. Na’aman came to Brown last week, and spoke at the Watson Institute for International Studies. (While here he also interviewed at Brown’s philosophy department; he teaches philosophy in Israel and is applying to graduate programs.)

The earnest and engaging young man was brutally honest in his reflections, offering not a political, but a personal testimony, although the former was implicit.

“When I got out of the Army, I felt Israeli society was unaware of what we did in their name,” he said. In 2002-’03 Na’aman served in the artillery corps in Hebron in the West Bank and as a checkpoint guard.
He described himself and most of Army buddies as “coming from a different ideology than the settlers. We went into the Army to proudly be part of the defense forces of our country. In the West Bank, we were introduced to their extremist religious ideology.”

Na’aman described the tedium of a soldier’s routine – eight hours on guard duty, eight hours off. “A solider is always hungry and tired and unable to sleep,” he said.

He described an outpost in a school overlooking Hebron, a dense city of almost 200,000 Palestinians. If there were random potshots from the city, the soldier, looking through night goggles which turned the scene an eerie green, must return fire. “After the third night it becomes like a video game. You don’t know who you are shooting at, you’re just shooting.”

He described hunting down possible Palestinian terrorists, ransacking their homes, breaking walls, ripping apart sofas, as the family watches in terror. “You slam the father against the wall. The women and children cry. You find nothing. Then you turn on the TV and see if there is a soccer game on.”  The disconnect is ridiculous, he said.

“You soon hate the Palestinians. You hate your commanding officers who tell you to grab a Palestinian off the street to pick up any suspect package, just in case it’s an explosive device. Most of all you feel trapped. You are the worst victim of all.”

Na’aman said American Jews should be aware of what he describes as “a threat to who we as a Jewish people are – there is an existential threat. I wore a helmet made in the U.S.A. I watched U.S.-made Caterpillars knock down walls. I was made in the U.S.A.

“If you support something you should be interested in its consequences. I do not question the legitimacy of Israel, but it is not a perfect place. I feel we are humanizing Israel by this discussion.’’
The talk at Brown was sponsored by the R.I. chapter of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom (The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace), and by the Development Studies program and Middle East Studies Program at Brown.

For more information, visit www.breakingthesilence.org.il.

 

 

 

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