Meet private Benn-” the stronger side”

Another shot to the groin was delivered to the reading public in Israel a week ago.After all the hasbarah (Spin) around a few bad apples in the now infamous Eden Abergil pictures widely written about, another soldier has come forth with his testament to humiliation.

Abergil as many realize by now was the simply stunned  Israel Defence Force female reservist who had her Abu Ghraib like poses flashed around the world.”

And of course she didn’t understand the widespread revulsion of civilized people in Israel and abroad. Her callous attitude was in contrast to te stated ideals of “the purity of arms”, that is widely bruited as Israel’s uniquely high standards of treatment of prisoners.

Now meet Aluf Benn,pfc courtesy of that brave paper Ha’aretz of which pfc Benn is now editor-at-large.

He writes of “a small torture that’s not in Amnesty Reports It’s a torture that depends on a single soldier, without instructions from above or the military advocate general. An outlet for the hatred of Arabs during a routine mission.

And there were the humiliations. We did not force the prisoners to sing “Ana bahebak Mishmar Hagvul” (“I love you Border Police” ), as in the territories. The big hit back then was “Yaish Begin, mat Arafat” (“Long live Begin, Arafat is dead” ). In retrospect, it’s not certain that our Lebanese prisoners were opposed to Arafat’s removal; they may have even identified with that part of the song.

I once performed a leftist act of courage. I was guarding a truck full of prisoners who were waiting in the sun to be processed at Ansar. Suddenly a reservist thug showed up, with sneakers and no shirt on, and wanted to get on the truck and beat the prisoners. I refused to let him on. He made a threatening move. I had no chance against him one on one. I cocked my weapon, he took a step back and, enraged, said: “It’s because of people like you that the country is in the state it is.”

There was nothing special in my experience or in the photographs of Eden Abergil. Tens of thousands of soldiers who served in the territories and Lebanon, like Eden and me, were exposed to similar experiences. This is the routine of occupation: pieces of cloth, cuffs, sweat in the sun, aud, um, yidak, uskut. That’s the way it has been for 43 years. When 18-year-old soldiers with weapons guard civilians with their hands and eyes bound, and see the prisoners lying in pools of urine in the interrogation basements, the situation is violent and humiliating without diverging from orders or regulations.

The occupation did not “corrupt” me or any of my colleagues in the unit. We didn’t return home and run wild in the streets and abuse helpless people. Coming-of-age problems preoccupied us a lot more than our prisoners’ discomfort. Our political views were also not affected. Anyone who hated Arabs at home hated them when he was defeated and weak in the army, and those who read Uri Avnery before being drafted believed that it was necessary to leave Lebanon and the territories even when they actively took part in the occupation.

But we learned one lesson: Regardless of politics, it’s better to be the guard than the prisoner. Even those who dream of a permanent settlement and a Palestinian state and want to see the settlements gone prefer to tie on the cuffs than be cuffed. It’s better to guard the prisoner and eat at the mess hall than to eat on your knees with your hands tied behind your back in a smelly room. The occupation did not transform us into law-breaking criminals, it only taught us that it’s best to be on the stronger side.

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