IDF soldiers give testimonies to counter Gaza war crimes claims
New website encourages soldiers to send in filmed testimonies in bid to show 'voices of real Israelis.'
A newly released collection of anonymous accusations of alleged human rights abuses by Israeli soldiers in Gaza has prompted reservists who served there to deliver signed, on-camera counter-testimonies about Palestinian terrorists' use of Gazans as human shields.
The dozen English-language testimonies were delivered in response to a report by Breaking the Silence, an organization which says it is attempting to collect accounts by Israel Defense Soldiers in order to expose "moral corruption" within the IDF, as explained in the movement's Website.
The accusations were made by anonymous people who said they were reserves soldiers, and whose faces were blurred in filmed talks. Some recounted hearing from other soldiers that the IDF used Palestinians as human shields during Operation Cast Lead in January. Others said they recalled destroying Palestinian property.
"We came upon an ambulance from a local children's hospital," Pinchas Sanderson from Jerusalem recounted in an American accent in his counter-testimony. The 29-year-old U.S.-born student is one of three native English-speakers who appear on the new website www.soldiersspeakout.com.
"It was suspicious because there was a very old lady in the ambulance of a children's hospital. Inside we found three RPG rocket launchers," he said. "We couldn?t believe someone would use an ambulance to move them."
Johannesburg-born Jeremy Lipshitz, 24, recounted in a South African accent how his unit discovered a Hezbollah hideout in Lebanon but was ordered to hold fire. Lipshitz, a reserves Intelligence Corps field combatant who settled in Ra'anana after making aliyah six years ago, said it was because the terrorists were using civilians as human shields."
Shane Goodson, a 23-year-old reserves paratrooper from Herzliya who in 2005 also came to Israel from South Africa, Pretoria, described how the IDF is made up of "ordinary Israelis with families, jobs and a respect for family values."
Another testimony by an Israeli-born commando soldier talks about him ordering his soldiers to clean up a Palestinian home after they were in it, and how they collected items from their own food parcels from home and gave them to the family.
The SoldiersSpeakOut group, which encourages soldiers to send in their filmed testimonies via the video sharing site Youtube, describes itself as "a grassroots movement that wants to show the voices of real Israelis."
The new movement is supported by the international Israel-advocacy group StandWithUs, which specializes in high-tech quick response projects in English to what is perceives as anti-Israel bias.
"Breaking the Silence are misleading in their name and their aim," remarks U.K.-born StandWithUs Israel Director Michael Dickson. "There is no silence to break. Israeli society is open, democratic and self critical. This one-sided and shoddy report fails to stress the context of the war as a battle against Hamas terrorists hiding behind civilians."
"All testimonies collected by Breaking the Silence are by combat soldiers whose names and full details are known and documented by the organization," said Ran Goldstein, a spokesperson for Breaking the Silence. "We do not reveal their details as per their request."
Goldstein said the organization encourages any soldier to come forth with their testimony, be it for Breaking the Silence or for Soldiers Speak Out. "But violent reactions to testimonies, such as we've seen from the army, are not acceptable," he added.
Dickson added that Breaking the Silence "omits names, ranks and facts" and the fact that the group receives funding from the EU and the British Embassy in Tel Aviv "merits investigation." Goldstein said is response that all donations to his nonprofit are "transparent and available for inspection."