You don't know me. I'm just a guy from California who once fell in love with Israel, and stayed. But if you're a person who advocates for Israel in California or anywhere else outside of here, I have a message for you.
It's the same message whether you belong to StandWithUs or J Street, the Republican Jewish Coalition or the New Israel Fund, AIPAC or Americans for Peace Now, the ZOA or Ameinu: Before you advocate for Israel one more day, you owe it to yourself and to Israel to do this: Download and open a report called "This is How We Fought in Gaza: Soldiers' testimonies and photographs from Operation 'Protective Edge' (2014)."
Read it until you can't go on. Then read it some more. Don't go back to advocating for Israel until you've read it to the end. It's not that long. Length is not the problem. Nor is language. It's just people talking.
Honesty is the problem. The calmly shocking honesty of scores of brave and deeply scarred soldiers who served in that war last summer. It won't be easy to read this, nor should it be.
Whoever you are, whatever your politics, you need to know what happened in Gaza. You need to be able to begin to explain – first of all to yourself – why at least half, and perhaps many more than half, of the some 2,200 Palestinians killed in the war, were civilians, many of them children.
You need to begin to sense the scope of the devastation in large areas of the Strip, in case after case the direct result of IDF policy and directives from the higher echelons of government.
- Report: Army Vets Slam IDF Policy in Gaza War
- Investigate or Face the ICC
- IDF Should Probe Soldiers' Claims
- Investigate Israel's Political Leaders Over Gaza Civilian Deaths
- Soldiers' Group Welcomes Furor Over Gaza Report
You need to begin to know what happened. You need answers. For your own sake.
When you advocate for Israel, you need to make up your own mind. You need know that the answers you give are honest. Real. Complete.
There will be people – lots of people – who will tell you not to read "This is How We Fought in Gaza." They will tell you that these soldiers are traitors, or defeatist radical activists, or dupes, or made up.
If you hear someone saying this, you're being flat-out lied to. Not only that, the person that tells you this is spitting on Israelis who were willing to give their very lives to defend their country and their loved ones.
There will be people who will slander and denigrate and deceive and misrepresent the organization which gathered the soldiers' stories – Breaking the Silence, itself a project of former and reserve IDF officers and soldiers.
There will be people who make their living suggesting that Breaking the Silence is part of a vast, dark, international conspiracy aimed at destroying Israel.
If you're honest about advocating for Israel, you need to think for yourself.
Whatever your politics, you should know this: These soldiers and the people of Breaking the Silence are Israeli patriots. They are advocating for Israel.
They are not nave. Anything but. They understand, as only veterans of war really can, what profoundly dangerous challenges this country faces.
They are a big part of what enables this country to continue to exist. They are advocating for an army, a country, whose actions hew closer to its own stated values and moral principles. They are patriots.
You need to hear these soldiers' stories because the government of Israel has gone silent about what happened there, keeps investigations in house and under wraps, evades accountability for flawed decision-making, and takes no responsibility for the colossal humanitarian calamity it left when those soldiers pulled out of a Gaza turned, in many areas, to a rubble-strewn, water-deprived, power-gone desert.
You don't know me. I'm just a guy who advocates for Israel in his own way. A guy who once fell in love with Israel, and got drafted in the IDF, and served in Gaza and Lebanon and elsewhere, and who wishes to God that Breaking the Silence had been founded long before it was, in 2004.