Silence Conceals All Sins

Fear not the provocateurs and the agitators but rather the unspeaking, yourselves, 'the silent majority.'

Yossi Sarid
Yossi Sarid
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IDF soldiers checking a Palestinian taxi driver in the West Bank.
IDF soldiers checking a Palestinian taxi driver in the West Bank.Credit: Reuters
Yossi Sarid
Yossi Sarid

On the 10th anniversary of the founding of Breaking the Silence, I was asked to read aloud a testimony to the crowd gathered at Habima Square in Tel Aviv. Don’t hold your breaths – in Testimony Number 6 there is no great drama. There aren’t even any children in it clinging to the legs of their mother and father who are wringing their hands in despair.

A Lavie Battalion staff sergeant relates, in his innocence, his daily routine, part of the customs of the time and the place:

“It’s the incident I most regret. A man was driving a load to Hebron and came to a roadblock. He was forbidden to go through with a truck and milk cans. That was the third time I had stopped him at the same place. I sort of blew a fuse. I told him to step out of the vehicle and he started to argue and shout. Right I way put plastic handcuffs on him and blindfolded him with a gun-cleaning rag. I put him in the jeep and brought him to the sentry. That was at 10 A.M. and they let him go only 14 hours later. He was there the whole day with the rag and the handcuffs. This happened in the summer and there were about 2,000 liters of milk there and all the milk spoiled in the heat.

“Today, when I look at it, I feel ashamed. I simply took a human being, to take over his life, tie him up and say to him – you are going to sit here. It isn’t that I had received an order, I decided on my own because that was what was done, that was the spirit of the commander. I caused him to lose hundreds of shekels in earnings. It’s not right, what I did. He didn’t threaten me. What did I think I was doing then? What does all this do for the security of the state? Zero, nothing. I just caused someone an injustice.”

The soldier cries over spilled milk for which he was to blame, and for how much spoiled milk are we to blame? Therefore, every single day all Israelis – soldiers and civilians alike – must see themselves as emerging from their silence and breaking it. Fear not the provocateurs and the agitators but rather the unspeaking, yourselves, “the silent majority.” Because the fault is in silence, which conceals crimes and wicked deeds.

Had the good soldiers spoken out, the bad soldiers would not be multiplying and defiling the land; after all, not all of them come from home as storm troopers. And perhaps there are no bad soldiers and commanders, only politicians who abandon them in the field. And had rabbis spoken out, they would have long ago exterminated the “price tag” rats who perpetrate hate crimes.

And had teachers spoken out, their colleague who refused to efface himself before a stupid and insolent girl in his class would not have been fired and they would not be teaching evolution without the monkey and man. And had the hacks of the left stood up and spoken out, they wouldn’t be banning Reform and Conservative rabbis from the Tzavta auditorium in Tel Aviv at the command of the Tzohar rabbis; and had friends of the hacks not kept secret the sybarites at the Jewish National Fund and kept silent as sharers in the pleasures, the blue box would not be blushing red with shame.

And had they told in Kiryat Gat, the punk kids of that city would not have harassed a troubled woman for many years. And had more doctors spoken out, the Knesset would have not dared to impose on them force-feeding of administrative detainees and the prostitution of ethics and conscience. And had customers spoken out – all of us in unison – the bank vampires and the insurance companies would not be sucking the life out of our deposits and our pensions.

And had people in the know spoken out in time, the list of candidates for the presidency would have shrunk from the outset and not only two contenders would have dropped out of the race. And had the Likud Knesset members and activists spoken out about the scoundrel who is at their head, who pats on the back with one hand and holds a knife in the other, we would have been rid of him, and of her.

Arise, wanderers in the desert, emerge from the silence. I keep my mouth shut, therefore I don’t exist, because silence is tantamount to acceptance: First it neutralizes my opinion and then erases me.

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